Sunday, 5 June 2016

Deepcut: a final verdict which will not end speculation

The print edition of the Western Mail yesterday led its comprehensive coverage of the Cheryl James inquest with the headline: 'Evidence did not lead to verdict of Deepcut suicide'. That was the quoted response of her father, who was present throughout the proceedings. From this distance, it did not seem possible for any firm conclusion to be reached, given the way so much of the physical evidence had been removed, lost or destroyed so soon after the discovery of the body. It would not have been surprising to hear that the original open verdict had been confirmed. No doubt the coroner was under pressure to return a definitive conclusion. Mr James had clearly hoped that new or changed verbal testimony would have become available showing that Cheryl had been unlawfully killed. In the event, he still felt that some people were lying.

The twenty year fight for a court process more thorough than the original rush to judgment has at least caused some overdue improvements to be made in the treatment of recruits. It is doubtful if all these would have been achieved without the dogged campaign by the James family, supported by Private Eye  magazine and the former MP for Montgomery, Lembit Öpik.

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