Liberty, the British civil liberties organization, has issued a statement in response to the report of the coroner into the 1995 death of Pvt. Cheryl James:
Emma Norton, Lawyer for Liberty and solicitor for Mr and Mrs [Des and Doreen] James, said:
“This day has come 20 years too late. There should have been an independent police investigation right from the start. The Army should have been open about life on that camp from day one. Cheryl’s family and friends would have been saved 20 years of unnecessary suffering and pain – and things might have changed for the better, serving the interests of the bereaved, serving soldiers and the British Army.
“It is not good enough for the Army and Ministry of Defence to wait two decades, point to the things that have changed and pat themselves on the back for saying sorry. Sexual harassment continues to afflict our armed forces more than any other sector[ii] – and failings in our military justice system mean those who report an assault are still not guaranteed the fair, independent investigation and support they deserve.
“If there was ever a day for the MoD to commit to change and show they actually care about ending this toxic culture, today is that day.”
In 2016, it remains lawful for:
- A Commanding Officer in the Armed Forces to choose to investigate an allegation of sexual assault him or herself. There is no legal requirement – as there is for most other criminal offences – to refer the matter to the police.[iii]
- Military police to investigate serious criminal offences including rape, sexual assault and other violent crime.
Liberty is campaigning for the Government to amend the law to end these practices and embed independence and fairness for our troops at the heart of the military justice system.HH Judge Brian Barker QC CBE ruled Pvt. James's death at Deepcut Barracks a suicide.