This morning’s defence news includes further reporting on the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Pte Cheryl James and stories on the cost of hard copies of the Chilcot report.
All newspapers cover yesterday’s inquest hearing at which Coroner Brian Barker QC concluded that Private Cheryl James committed suicide at Deepcut barracks in November 1995.
In an op-ed in the Daily Telegraph, Chief of the General Staff General Sir Nick Carter reiterates the apology made to the James family for the Army’s duty-of-care failures. He argues the Army has changed in many ways since 1995, including the welfare it provides to personnel, instructor ratios, independent inspections of facilities by Ofsted and a zero-tolerance approach to bullying.
Brigadier John Donnelly, head of Army Personnel Services Group, speaking outside Woking Coroner’s Court, said:
I want to repeat the apology I gave to the court and Mr and Mrs James at the start of the inquest. We are sorry for the low levels of supervision that were provided for the trainees at Deepcut in 1995 and for the policies that were applied to using trainees for guard duties, and that we took too long to recognise and rectify the situation. This inquest has been a difficult time for Cheryl's family and friends and I want to pay tribute to the dignity that they have shown, especially to Mr James whose courage, fortitude and generosity has been an example to us all.
The Army has made profound changes since 1995 which the coroner has acknowledged, but we do recognise that change is a continual process.
This has been a comprehensive investigation and I hope that the coroner's careful and balanced findings will not be overlooked. We will now study the conclusions carefully to ensure that we continue to train and care for our soldiers to the very highest standard fulfilling our obligation to their families.
General Sir Nick Carter, the head of the Army, has publicly committed to improving the Army's culture to ensure that the Army is demonstrably inclusive, that it respects difference and is a beacon of equality of opportunity. Or to put that another way, an Army where a talented young woman like Cheryl James would have thrived and excelled.
Most newspapers, including the Sun and Daily Mail, report that Downing Street promised that families of soldiers killed in Iraq will not have to pay the £767 fee for a hard copy of the Chilcot report when it is published on 6 July. A Chilcot inquiry spokesperson said that the full report will be most easily accessed online.
A government spokesperson said:
We are currently considering these issues and how best to ensure that those directly involved in Iraq operations can access the full report from the Inquiry.
The Guardian and Telegraph report that the United Nations is to formally ask the Syrian government to approve airdrops of humanitarian aid to areas besieged by forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad. Nearly 600,000 people are besieged in 19 different areas in Syria, it is reported, according to the UN.
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