Deepcut - Fresh Inquest For Seaham Soldier

28 November 2017, 13:05

Private Geoff Gray

The family of a young soldier from County Durham who died at Deepcut barracks have won a High Court action for a fresh inquest.

Private Geoff Gray, 17, Seaham, was found with two gunshot wounds to his head on September 17 2001.

A coroner recorded an open verdict, which did not include a narrative conclusion, following an inquest in March 2002.

His family won the right to apply to the High Court for a new inquest after Attorney General Jeremy Wright said he was satisfied fresh evidence had come to light.

Lord Justice Bean, Mrs Justice Carr and Judge Mark Lucraft granted the application at a hearing in London on Tuesday.

They ruled it was "necessary or desirable in the interests of justice" for a fresh inquest to he held.

The judges ordered the quashing of the 2002 inquest "together with the verdict and findings of that inquest".

Lord Justice Bean, announcing the decision of the court, said: "We will order that Her Majesty's senior coroner for Surrey, or such other coroner as the Lord Chief Justice shall appoint at the request of the chief coroner, is to conduct an investigation ... into the death of Private Gray."

He said: "The scope of that inquest, and the issue of whether the coroner should, or should not, sit with a jury, should be a matter for the coroner."

Last year a judge gave the go-ahead for a fresh inquest into the death of Private Sean Benton, from Hastings, East Sussex, which is due to take place at Surrey Coroner's Court in Woking from January 24 next year.

The 20-year-old was found with five bullet wounds to his chest in June 1995 while undergoing training at the Surrey base.

He was the first of four young soldiers to die of gunshot wounds at the barracks between 1995 and 2002.

Private Cheryl James, 18, from Llangollen, North Wales, shot herself in November 1995, according to a second inquest into her death which concluded in June.

Following Pte Gray's death in 2001, Private James Collinson, 17, from Perth, was found dead with a single gunshot wound through his chin on March 23 2002.

The soldier's parents Geoff and Diane were present in court for the ruling.

Lord Justice Bean said the coroner had taken no active part in the application, and correspondence indicated that the Ministry of Defence "do not wish to contest an order for a fresh inquest".

He added that "nevertheless, we have to be satisfied ourselves that a fresh inquest should take place".

Three possible grounds for a fresh inquest had been put forward - "insufficiency of inquiry", procedural irregularity, and "the fact that a substantial volume of new evidence has become available".

During the hearing, John Cooper QC, for the parents, told the court there were more than 22,000 pages of fresh evidence, some of which he submitted was "highly relevant".