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Deaths of Deepcut soldiers and others has taught us lessons, says Army head

Published 14/02/2016

Army head General Sir Nicholas Carter said the military culture has changed since several soldiers died on duty
Army head General Sir Nicholas Carter said the military culture has changed since several soldiers died on duty

The head of the Army said the military has learnt lessons from the deaths on duty of several soldiers - insisting the culture has changed.

General Sir Nicholas Carter said he believed it would be "difficult" for the cases of Gavin Williams, who collapsed following a beasting, and Private Cheryl James, who died at Deepcut Barracks, to be repeated.

The Army was also criticised following the deaths of three reservists during an SAS training exercise.

Sir Nicholas, chief of the general staff, told the BBC's Sunday Politics Wales programme that he thought the deaths of Ptes Williams and James had dented the reputation of the Army.

"I think it would be difficult for those sorts of things to happen again because we've changed our culture," he said.

"We've recently issued a new code of leadership, which is something I feel very strongly about.

"I would be surprised if it occurred again, I'd never say it can't happen because of course it can.

"We have put into place a lot of very different processes to ensure those sorts of things don't happen in the future."

Sir Nicholas was speaking as a new inquest continues into the death of Private James, 18, from Llangollen in North Wales. She was found dead with a gunshot wound at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey in 1995.

The first inquest into Pte James' death in 1995 recorded an open verdict but that was overturned by the High Court which ordered the new hearing.

Last month, a coroner criticised the Army over the death of Pte Williams, 22, from Hengoed in South Wales, who died from heatstroke after being beasted by senior non-commissioned officers at Lucknow Barracks in Tidworth, Wiltshire in July 2006.

Assistant Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner Alan Large said the Army failed to notice the "fundamental defects in the disciplinary and punishment system".

The Army apologised and acknowledged there had been a "culture of unofficial punishments" within the Second Battalion the Royal Welsh Regiment.

It was also criticised by another coroner after three reservists, Lance Corporal Edward Maher, Lance Corporal Craig Roberts and Corporal James Dunsby, died on one of the hottest days of 2013 during a training exercise in the Brecon Beacons.

Sir Nicholas said that he did not think the Army's reputation was damaged as a result of these high-profile incidents, citing polling data and an approval rating of 90%.

"The plain fact is that we have a good reputation and we'll hang on to it," he said.

"All good organisations have to adapt and we have to adapt because the generation joining the Army now is very different generation to mine.

"The upshot of that is we have to think very hard as to how we lead them and the opportunities we provide for them.

"That's why it is healthy to look at our culture. All organisations need to do that all of the time. We have world class junior leaders and I want them to continue to be world class."

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