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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Anger over Deepcut inquiry snub
Soldiers' families
Relatives threatened to go to the High Court
The deaths of four young soldiers at Deepcut Barracks will not be investigated in a public inquiry, the government has announced.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram, making the Commons announcement, said army training would be inspected by an adult learning inspectorate.

The recruits at the Surrey camp died from gunshots between 1995 and 2002.

Their families reacted with anger and pledged to take the cases to the High Court for a judicial review.

The families of Sean Benton, 20, Cheryl James, 18, Geoff Gray, 17, and James Collinson, 17, do not accept the official explanation that they killed themselves.

Mr Ingram told MPs in three of the cases there had been police investigations, coroner's hearings, and "intensive police re-investigations".

But Surrey police found no evidence "to indicate any prospect of a prosecution directly related to these deaths," he said.

"I have weighed all these factors carefully," Mr Ingram said.

FOUR SOLDIERS' DEATHS
Clockwise from top left: Sean Benton, James Collinson, Geoff Gray and Cheryl James
Private Sean Benton, 20, from Hastings (1995)
Private Cheryl James, 18, from Llangollen (1995)
Private Geoff Gray, 17, from Seaham, Co Durham (2001)
Private James Collinson, 17, from Perth (2002)

"I do not underestimate the depth of feeling and the passion of the families who lost loved ones at Deepcut, but I am not persuaded, given the intensive investigations and inquiries and the new measures I have put in place, what more a public inquiry would achieve."

The families had met Mr Ingram a few hours before his Commons appearance.

He told the Commons that "the Army shares their sorrow."

"I also recognise that in some respects the families have not been as well treated as they should have been.

"The Defence Secretary (Geoff Hoon) has apologised unreservedly for these failings. I repeat those sentiments today."

The father of Private Geoff Gray, also called Geoff, said: "We are extremely angry.

We are extremely angry
Geoff Gray
Father of Deepcut recruit

"We came to the government with a very simple question: tell us the truth about how our children died.

"Surrey Police could not tell us that. Adam Ingram had the ideal opportunity to give us a public inquiry, to give us another chance to find out what happened to our children - but he just didn't do that."

He said legal proceedings had begun against the Ministry of Defence.

Jim Collinson, whose son James died, said he was "very bitter" about the announcement.

His son's coroner's hearing is yet to be held, where he hopes he will find out more about his son's death. But Mr Collinson said he was sympathetic to the other families.

"They have no choice but to keep the campaign going and go to the High Court and fight for justice."

Inspections

Inspections of all three services would be carried out by the independent Adult Learning Inspectorate, beginning this autumn and focussing initially on care and welfare of trainees.

"It will include Deepcut," Mr Ingram said.

"There will be no no-go areas."

The inspectorate will report to ministers by Easter next year, and the report will be published, he added.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram
I also recognise that in some respects the families have not been as well treated as they should have been
Adam Ingram
Armed Forces Minister

Mr Ingram announced an extra 23 million for the inspections and improvements.

The ALI has a statutory responsibility to examine and report on the quality of education and training for adults and young people.

It is entirely independent of the MoD and is a widely-respected body, Mr Ingram said.

Surrey Police's critical report had called for a broader inquiry into bullying in the Army and care of young soldiers.

But Mr Hoon earlier ruled one out, because there have already been various investigations - including Surrey Police's 15-month inquiry.

The Surrey Police investigation said there were repeated examples of bullying and a failure to learn past lessons.

The force's report called for a "broader inquiry" by the government into the way the Army cares for its young soldiers.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The BBC's Paul Adams
"It's all much less than the families were hoping to hear"



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