Saturday, 9 April 2011

Who will speak for Cheryl James now?

There are matters of regret for the loss of Lembit Öpik from the Commons. One is his pressure on behalf of sufferers of Motor Neurone Disease; another is the way he persisted in calling for an impartial inquiry into the death of Pte. Cheryl James, one of four gunshot victims at Deepcut army barracks, almost certainly at the hands of a so far unidentified killer or killers.

The results of a review by Devon and Cornwall police were released to the families a month ago. This investigated the conduct of previous investigations rather than the incidents themselves. However, it apparently does show that possible suspects were not properly investigated (Independent, 13th March & Private Eye no. 1283), which to my mind is enough to trigger a full-blown public inquiry, which would have power to sub-poena documents and witnesses. I am not one of those who call for public inquiries at the drop of a hat, but this case justifies the costs and time involved.  It raises questions about the army's duty of care to young recruits and to their attitude to the civil authorities.

Some (probably not all) of those British soldiers who abused prisoners in their charge in Iraq were prosecuted - and quite right too. It is high time we did the same for one of our own.

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