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MoD urged to keep records of contact with vulnerable individuals

Relatives of two soldiers who took their own lives have urged the MoD to keep records of contact with vulnerable colleagues.

Lance Corporal James Ross, 30, from Leeds, died in December 2012 and Rifleman Darren Mitchell, 20, from London, died two months later at Ballykinler Barracks in Co Down.

Eight other service personnel self-harmed at the army base in Northern Ireland, five of whom are still serving. A coroner is to write notifying them that material containing their personal details may be disclosed.

Family barrister Karen Quinlivan QC told the coroner: "If individuals then went to MoD for support and assistance, given the history and background of the individuals concerned, you would have an expectation that records would be kept."

The dead men had fought in Afghanistan and their families have raised post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) concerns following their deaths.

They served in the Second Battalion the Rifles.

A Belfast preliminary inquest into their deaths was held on Thursday.

Ms Quinlivan told the coroner: "The MoD is a public body with duties to your investigation, which is ongoing.

"This is an Article 2 investigation (surrounding the state's responsibility to protect life).

"The MoD should therefore on your direction keep appropriate records."

Philip Aldworth QC, for the ministry, said directing the organisation to record all contacts with affected soldiers was unworkable, counterproductive and unnecessary.

He added: "It is very likely that some of the recipients of the letter will seek advice or support from other military personnel. They may well do so on an informal basis.

"How is that going to be appropriately recorded?

"I am not aware of any other circumstances in which there has been a requirement on the interested party to record details of their contacts with employees so that they can be potentially passed on to a third party.

"It may be a disincentive, it may inhibit them from obtaining the advice or support which they wish."

He said there was an undercurrent of mistrust of his clients.

"We are all here hopefully to have an effective and thorough investigation.

"It gives the proceedings a flavour which I respectfully suggest we can do without."

Coroner Joe McCrisken said he would not micro-manage the process and queried whether he had the power to direct the MoD to keep records.

But he added: "It is desirable that records are kept by the MoD."

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