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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 December 2006, 16:57 GMT
The Deepcut investigations
THE DEAD SOLDIERS
The four Deepcut victims
(Clockwise from top left):
Sean Benton, 20, Hastings, East Sussex
James Collinson, 17, Perth, Scotland
Geoff Gray, 17, Seaham, Co Durham
Cheryl James, 18, Llangollen, north Wales
The long-awaited independent report on the deaths of four young soldiers at the Deepcut army barracks has been published.

The report, by Nicholas Blake QC, is the result of a 12-month review of all four deaths, ordered by Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram.

It said that on the balance of probabilities, three of the four young recruits took their own lives. It offered no conclusion on the death of Pte James Collinson, whose inquest earlier this month returned an open verdict.

Mr Blake also said there was no evidence that they were "bullied to death" and ruled out the need for a public inquiry.

Three separate probes into aspects of Surrey Police's handling of the death inquiries have also been taking place. Two were concluded in the summer and the third in November 2005.

The Army also still has to hold internal inquiries into two of the deaths.

The families of the four dead soldiers say the Blake review had been hampered by "limited powers", and they continue to demand a full public inquiry.

The key probes stemming from the Deepcut deaths are outlined below.

INDEPENDENT REVIEW

  • Called by Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram on 15 December, 2004.

  • Begun: early 2005. Completed: 29 March 2006.

  • Terms of reference: To review the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the four soldiers at Deepcut and to produce a report with recommendations.

    BLAKE REPORT
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  • Nicholas Blake's brief was to examine evidence already in the public domain rather than conduct a fresh inquiry.

  • He concluded that on the balance of probabilities, the deaths of Ptes Benton, James and Gray were self-inflicted, but he offered no conclusion on the death of Pte Collinson, whose inquest returned an open verdict earlier this month.

  • Mr Blake said there was no evidence that the four were "bullied to death", but he found "clear evidence of foul abuse of trainees" at the barracks.

  • He criticised many of the practices at Deepcut during the period covering the four deaths, including that of allowing young recruits to do armed guard duty unsupervised. And he called for the appointment of an independent Ombudsman for the armed forces.

  • However, he does not believe a public inquiry is necessary, although he raised the prospect that the inquests on the first three deaths might be re-opened. And he said there would be a case for a public probe if the Army rejected his recommendation to appoint an independent ombudsman.

  • The review was not held in public, although the report and an interim paper have been published, as will be the MoD's response.

  • Participation in the review was voluntary and Mr Blake had no statutory powers to require people to co-operate, nor to force his recommendations to be implemented.

  • The government stopped short of agreeing to an ombudsman, but announced in June 2006 that it would set up a Service Complaints Commissioner, who would be independent, reporting annually to parliament, but could not take legal action to challenge decisions on whether to prosecute.

  • Mr Blake said the government's response satisfied him that it was not necessary to hold a public inquiry into the deaths.

    JAMES COLLINSON INQUEST

  • The last of the four inquests was held in spring 2006 when a jury returned an open verdict on Pte James Collinson.

  • Surrey coroner Michael Burgess had delayed his investigation into Pte Collinson's death, in March 2002, until the more wide-ranging police investigations were complete.

  • Inquests on the other three victims had already been held. He ruled that Pte Sean Benton committed suicide and he recorded open verdicts in the cases of Ptes Cheryl James and Geoff Gray.

  • At the end of Pte Collinson's inquest, Mr Burgess threw his weight behind calls for a public inquiry "to restore public confidence in the recruitment and training of young soldiers... at Deepcut or elsewhere".

  • According to the coroner's spokesman, Mr Burgess has decided not to apply to re-open any of the earlier inquests, which he could have done if he had felt there was significant new evidence.

  • But Nicholas Blake's independent review has rekindled some of the families' hopes that inquests on the first three Deepcut victims could still be reheard.

  • Surrey Police say they are considering his recommendation that they release hitherto secret documents that could help the families decide whether to apply for new hearings.

    MPs' INVESTIGATION

  • The House of Commons Defence Select Committee announced plans for an inquiry in March, 2004, as soon as Surrey Police had published its final report on the Deepcut deaths.

  • It published the results of this investigation on 14 March, 2005.

  • Terms of reference: to look at how each of the armed forces implements its duty of care to new recruits during their initial training, and to identify areas for improvement.

  • The MPs made it clear their investigation would not challenge the findings of the police or coroner regarding the specific deaths at Deepcut which prompted their investigation.

  • They received written evidence and heard oral evidence in public, but visited military establishments away from the public gaze.

  • The committee concluded that much bullying of young recruits in the armed forces went unreported and called for a major upheaval of the approach to their duty of care. It also suggested setting up an independent military complaints panel.

  • The government responded in July, acknowledging some shortcomings in the MoD's dealings with young recruits and agreeing to promote an anti-bullying culture and modify some aspects of its recruitment and training guidance.

  • But it rejected calls raise the recruitment age to 18.

    ADULT LEARNING INSPECTORATE

  • Called by Mr Ingram on 24 May, 2004, two months after publication of a police report on Deepcut, highlighting shortcomings in the army's training and treatment of new recruits.

  • The Adult Learning Inspectorate - a non-departmental body which monitors the quality of publicly-funded education and training for adults and young people - began its investigation in October 2004.

  • Terms of reference: The ALI has agreed a rolling programme of independent inspections of Armed Forces training establishments, including Deepcut.

  • It focuses on the welfare of new recruits, visiting training establishments - sometimes unannounced - and interviewing staff, trainees and some of their parents.

  • Inspectors have also spoken to trainees who had since left the armed forces, both by agreement and without permission.

  • The completed initial report, published on 21 March, 2005, highlights the "high" incidence of bullying in the forces and criticises the failure of senior officials to implement their "zero-tolerance" approach.

  • It also condemns the quality of living conditions and potential dangers posed by the way weapons and ammunition are stored.

    POLICE INVESTIGATE POLICE

  • Devon and Cornwall Police were called in by the Surrey force in October 2003 to review their Surrey colleagues' 15-month investigation into the deaths.

  • The brief was "to look into aspects including mindset, collusion, use of MoD officers and inappropriate behaviour by Surrey officers".

  • A summary of the report was finally published in November 2005.

  • It criticised the leadership of the investigation, which it said was too "narrow" and over-complicated.

  • Surrey Police welcomed the fact that the inquiry did not uncover any missed lines of inquiry and no evidence to suggest that their decision not to bring a murder prosecution was wrong.

  • A separate investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission into the conduct of some Surrey officers was concluded last summer, the BBC has learned.

  • Surrey Police called in what was then the Police Complaints Authority in November 2003 after the parents of Pte James complained that they were deliberately misled over the involvement of MoD officers in the criminal investigation, which they argued compromised impartiality.

  • The complaint was upheld in part.

  • The IPCC also investigated a complaint by the parents of Pte Gray relating to a document they uncovered under the Freedom of Information Act.

  • It concluded in July 2006 there was no evidence to suggest Surrey Police had begun the investigation into the death of Pte Gray with anything other than an open mind.
  • Pte Gray's parents believe police approached the inquiry with the view that the death was suicide.

  • The complaint was not upheld.
  • PREVIOUS INVESTIGATIONS

  • The Ministry of Defence has already held boards of inquiry (BOIs) into the deaths of Ptes James and Benton, but has delayed the other two probes until all other outstanding official investigations have concluded.

  • BOIs establish the facts of events and lessons to be learned, but do not apportion blame.

  • On the eve of the Blake Report, the MoD said they would start shortly.

  • Surrey police also carried out a number of investigations, covering the individual deaths, a wider-ranging look at non-combat army deaths and the army's general approach to recruits and training.

  • They concluded there was no evidence that any of the four was murdered, but the Army says it is heeding some of the more general recommendations.

  • The families of the victims engaged an independent forensic expert to conduct his own investigation.

  • Frank Swann, who was granted access to the barracks, concluded that it was highly unlikely that any of the four deaths was self-inflicted. But the police and Ministry of Defence both criticised him, saying he he failed to provide satisfactory supporting evidence.




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