Parents' relief at Deepcut ruling
The Government's chief legal adviser has given permission to the family of a young Army recruit who died at Deepcut barracks to apply for a fresh inquest into her death.
Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC has granted Private Cheryl James' family consent to apply to the High Court for a new inquest into her death, nearly a decade after it happened.
Pte James, 18, was undergoing initial training at Deepcut Barracks when she was found with gunshot wounds in November 1995.
She was one of four young soldiers who died at the barracks in Surrey between 1995 and 2002, sparking allegations of bullying and abuse.
Her parents, backed by Human Rights campaign group Liberty, called for a fresh inquest into her death, lodging an application with the Attorney General for consent to apply to the High Court for one.
And today a spokesman for Mr Grieve said he had granted his consent.
The spokesman said: "The application was made to the Attorney General on the basis that the original inquest made insufficient enquiry into the circumstances of her death and because new evidence is now available that was not put before the inquest in December 1995.
"The Attorney General granted his consent because he concluded that it was in the interests of justice for the application for a new inquest to go forward and to be heard by the High Court."
The Attorney General does not have power to order a new inquest, but an application can now be made to the High Court, which can order a new inquest where it deems it is necessary or desirable in the interests of justice.
Pte James' parents Des and Doreen James today said: "We're relieved and delighted by the Attorney General's decision.
"It's truly an emotional day - it's been a long and painful process, with so many hurdles, but we never considered giving up.
"Cheryl had her whole life in front of her; when our young people lose their lives serving their country, not only do they deserve a full and independent investigation into their deaths, it must be their absolute right.
"We may now finally achieve a meaningful inquiry into her death and we hope it brings about real change for future recruits."
Liberty, which represents Pte James' parents, applied for a new inquest after using the Human Rights Act to secure access to documents held by the authorities about the teenager's death.
The group said it used the act to get access to documentation about Pte James' death that her family had never seen, claiming 44 volumes of statements, documents, notes and photographs contained evidence that had never properly been examined.
Liberty solicitor Emma Norton, said: "The Attorney General's decision gives Cheryl's grieving family a long-overdue chance to discover the truth.
"Until now their battle for answers has been repeatedly snubbed by a state that views the fundamental human rights of our troops as an optional extra.
"This young girl was preparing for a career in service - the least her family deserves is justice."
Pte James, from Llangollen, North Wales, was one of four young soldiers who died at the barracks in Surrey between 1995 and 2002. An inquest into her death recorded an open verdict.
Private Sean Benton, 20, from Hastings, East Sussex, was found dead with gunshot wounds at the barracks in June 1995, just months before Pte James's death.
In September 2001, 17-year-old Private Geoff Gray, from Seaham, Co Durham, was found with two gunshot wounds to his head, and six months later, Private James Collinson, from Perth, also 17, was found with a single gunshot wound upwards through his chin.
A Surrey Police investigation was launched into the deaths in 2002, following pressure from the families who rejected suggestions their children had committed suicide and called for a public inquiry.
Later, a report by the Adult Learning Inspectorate, commissioned by armed forces minister at the time Adam Ingram, called for substantial reforms in the training of new recruits.
A later investigation by deputy high court judge Nicholas Blake QC called for an independent Ombudsman for the armed forces, but rejected the families' calls for a public inquiry. It also concluded that Ptes Gray, James and Benton had committed suicide.
A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: "Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Private Cheryl James.
"This decision is a matter for the Attorney General and the courts. "If a new inquest is ordered, we will of course provide support to the coroner when needed."