Attorney general grants permission to relatives of Private Cheryl James to go to high court for second hearing
The government’s most senior legal adviser has given permission to the family of a young army recruit who died nearly 19 years ago at the notorious Deepcut barracks in Surrey to apply for a new inquest into her death.
The family of Private Cheryl James, 18, who was found with gunshot wounds, has been granted permission by the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, to seek a fresh inquest at the high court.
James was one of four young soldiers who died at the barracks between 1995 and 2002.
The original inquest recorded an open verdict. After being asked to conduct a separate investigation, Nicholas Blake QC in 2006 rejected calls for a public inquiry by the families of the four recruits who died from gunshot wounds – Privates James, Sean Benton, 20, Geoff Gray, 17, and James Collinson, 17.
Blake concluded there was no evidence the deaths were anything other than self-inflicted, though he reported that bullying, harassment, “foul abuse” and a systemic failure to investigate complaints were part of life at Deepcut.
On behalf of James’s parents, the civil rights group Liberty applied for a fresh inquest after using the Human Rights Act to get access to 44 volumes of statements, documents, notes and photographs understood to be in Surrey police files and containing evidence that had never properly been examined.
Liberty’s 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.”
James’s parents, Des and Doreen James, from Llangollen, north Wales, said they were 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”, they said.
“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.”
A spokesperson for Grieve said: “The application was made to the attorney general on the basis that the original inquest made insufficient inquiry into the circumstances of her death and because new evidence is now available that was not put before the inquest in December 1995.”