Serious deaths: the army “treats the families of the victims with contempt” | Deep cut

The sister of Private Sean Benton, who committed suicide at Deepcut Barracks, accused the British Army of treating the families of the victims with contempt after it emerged the military had failed to honor a promise made during of its survey in 2018.

Tracy Lewis said the coroner had been told recruits would be told they could report serious physical or sexual assault to police, a pledge to tackle bullying and harassment in the ranks.

But during follow-up investigations by Benton’s family this year, it emerged that the military had failed to act as promised in court, forcing the Department of Defense to apologize and belatedly rewrite its training materials. .

“The military has promised my family that it will make sure that army trainees and recruits today fully understand that if something bad happens to them – like serious sexual or physical assault – they can. report to civilian police and do not have to. go to military authorities, ”Lewis said.

“The evidence we heard in all of the Deepcut investigations was that our kids just didn’t know they could do this and had nowhere to go for help. Now we learn, three years later, that the military has done nothing. To our families, it sounds like contempt.

The inquest concluded that Benton, 20, committed suicide at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey in 1995. He was found dead with five gunshot wounds to his chest. The investigation learned that he had been the victim of intimidation on several occasions. In one incident, he told his sister that he had been “shackled and forced to parade around” a canteen.

Brigadier Christopher Coles, head of the Army Personnel Service Group, had told Judge Coroner Peter Rook QC that “an instruction would be sent” to Army training centers requiring them to tell recruits that they were could complain to the civilian police if they believed they had been a victim of a serious crime.

Due to public engagement, Rook said he will not be making an official report on preventing future deaths. The judge said he believed the military had “relatively late in the day recognized and solved” the problem of recruits feeling that they had nowhere to turn if attacked.

Earlier this year, in June, Benton’s family asked the Department of Defense to share copies of the revised initiation documents with them, only for the military to recognize they did not exist.

Threatened with judicial review, the defense ministry admitted this month to having made a mistake. “This is extremely unfortunate and a matter for which the Defense Ministry would like to apologize to your client,” wrote a government lawyer. “I understand that might not be a lot of comfort, but I can assure you it was an oversight.” The training materials were being urgently rewritten, they added.

Benton was one of four soldiers who died in controversial circumstances at Deepcut Barracks between 1995 and 2002. Initial investigations were found to be inadequate and a 2006 review concluded that recruits had suffered “harassment, discrimination and behavior. oppressive ”.

Earlier this month, Ben Wallace, Secretary of Defense, called a rare special military board meeting following a spate of bullying and harassment scandals and allegations according to which a Kenyan woman was killed in 2012 by a British soldier whose identity is known. to several colleagues.

But Lewis said the military failure in his brother’s case raised the question of whether the reform was serious. “There is so much in the press right now about unacceptable behavior and the military wants us to believe that will change. But how can we believe that when the military can’t even do what they promised the court they would do?

A Defense Ministry spokesperson said: “We regret that we did not act quickly enough to make the changes to the training that we have committed to, however, as part of the basic training, every recruit is now informed of its right to report any problem to civilians. police.”

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