Deepcut inquest to examine bullying claims

August 7, 2017
Hannah Swarbrick - Solicitor in the Military Claims Team

Posted by: Hannah Swarbrick


A fresh inquest into the death of a vulnerable young solider at Deepcut barracks will examine whether he was hounded to death by “bullying and harassment”.

Pt Sean Benton was found with five bullets in his chest in June 1995, shortly after he had been told that he was to be discharged from the Army.

The original inquest in July 1995 recorded a finding of suicide. No evidence was heard at that inquest about Benton’s experience at Deepcut.

Benton’s family have campaigned for years for a full investigation into his death amid allegations he suffered prolonged physical and psychological bullying.

Benton was one of four young soldiers to die at Deepcut barracks between 1995 and 2002.

At a fresh pre-inquest hearing at the Old Bailey, the scope of the inquest was widened to look at all of the circumstances surrounding Benton’s death including his mental state at the time and any shortcomings in relation to supervising trainees and managing their mental health.

A further pre-inquest hearing is due to be held on 20th September and a full inquest is expected to take place from 24th January.

Bullying in the Armed Forces

An inquest into the death of Cheryl James, held in June 2016, concluded that she had died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds. When delivering his verdict the coroner Brian Barker QC said that the barracks had created “a dangerous situation and provided the opportunity for her to take her life” by failing to recognise “nor taking any steps to reduce, the potential risk of trainees using their service weapons against themselves.”

The need to protect vulnerable young recruits has also been highlighted in other more recent cases.

Gavin Williams, a member of 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh Regiment collapsed and died in 2006 after being subjected to an unlawful punishment commonly known as “beasting” at Wiltshire barracks. He was forced to take part in vigorous marches and then work out in a gym on a searingly hot summer’s day.

In 2011 Cpl Anne-Marie Ellement was found hanged after alleging that she had been raped by two Army colleagues at a barracks in Germany in 2009. An inquest into her death in 2014 concluded that bullying and harassment in the aftermath of the rape allegation had also played a part in her suicide. 

Hopefully lessons can be learnt from these inquests and improvements can be made to protect individuals who are already vulnerable.

What should you do if you have been subject to harassment or bullying?

We understand, from speaking to current and former service personnel, how hard it can be to report bullying and harassment in the Armed Forces.

The Armed Forces have their own procedure for investigating incidents of this nature and it can help provide vital evidence which might determine whether or not an individual is successful in bringing a civil claim for personal injury caused by bullying and harassment.

A service complaint is the military equivalent of a civilian workplace grievance. It can be used to make a complaint about any of the following:

  • Bullying;
  • Harassment;
  • Discrimination; and
  • Career fouling

A complaint must normally be made within 3 months of the incident you are complaining about.

My colleague, Ahmed Al-Nahhas, has previously written a blog about the process for bringing a service complaint.

Our military team regularly represent service personnel who have been subject to bullying, harassment, or discrimination during their service.

If you think you have grounds for a service complaint, please contact one of the specialist lawyers in our team.

I am a Solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp specialising in military claims. If you think you may have a claim you can contact me free of charge and in confidence on 0207 288 4851 or at hannahswarbrick@boltburdonkemp.co.uk Alternatively, you can complete this form and one of the solicitors in the team will contact you. You can find out more about the Military team here.

 

Posted by: Hannah Swarbrick

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