High Court to decide on Llangollen woman's death

Published date: 25 March 2014 |
Published by: Charlie Croasdale
Read more articles by Charlie Croasdale


THE family of an 18-year-old army private who died at her barracks believe they are moving closer to “justice”.

The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, has given permission for the family of Cheryl James, of Llangollen, to ask for a fresh inquest into her death.

Miss James died from a gunshot wound in her forehead at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey in 1995 where she was undergoing initial training.

Her body was discovered in woodland.

Surrey Police handed the matter over to the Army which said she had taken her own life, but an inquest later recorded an open verdict.

Miss James was one of four privates – the others were Sean Benton, Geoff Gray and James Collinson – who died from gunshot wounds at the barracks between 1995 and 2002.

Her parents, Des and Doreen James, have long been calling for a “full and independent investigation” into the deaths.

All of the evidence uncovered by police – some 44 volumes including statements, documents, notes and photographs – has never been seen by the parents of the soldiers.

In a statement yesterday Mr and Mrs James said: “We’re 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.

“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.”

Solicitor Emma Norton, who represents Cheryl’s family on behalf of the human rights charity Liberty, 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.

“This young girl was preparing for a career in service, the least her family deserves is justice.”

A spokesman for the Attorney General said: “Dominic Grieve has given his consent to the family of Private Cheryl James to apply to the High Court for a new inquest into her death.

“The application was made to the Attorney General on the basis that the original inquest made insufficient enquiry into the circumstances of her death and because new evidence is now available that was not put before the inquest in December 1995.

“The Attorney General granted his consent because he concluded it was in the interests of justice for the application for a new inquest to go forward and to be heard by the High Court.”

The Attorney General can give his consent to an application being made in cases where he considers, based on the information in the application, that it is appropriate for it to proceed to a High Court hearing.

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