Former army instructor admits sex abuse of Deepcut recruits

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The Independent Online

A former army instructor at Deepcut barracks admitted yesterday that he had repeatedly sexually abused young soldiers under his authority.

A former army instructor at Deepcut barracks admitted yesterday that he had repeatedly sexually abused young soldiers under his authority.

Leslie Skinner, 46, changed his plea as his trial was about to start and admitted five counts of indecent assault on four male soldiers between 1992 and 1997. Judge Charles Tilling ordered a further four counts of indecent assault and one count of male rape to lie on file.

The Princess Royal Barracks at Deepcut, Surrey, has been at the centre of accusations of bullying and abuse since four recruits died of gunshot wounds.

Skinner was not at the barracks at the same time as the four youngsters, but some of their relatives were in court yesterday to hear him admit to a catalogue of sexual abuse.

Weeping as she emerged from the building, Diane Gray, mother of Private Geoff Gray, 17, who was found dead in September 2001, said: "It goes to show what's really happening; the kids are not safe down there."

The court heard that the former staff sergeant had been convicted of indecent exposure and demoted before being sent to Deepcut.

After serving at Arnhem barracks in Aldershot, Hampshire, where one of the admitted offences took place, he was posted to Northern Ireland.

He was demoted to private after a court martial in 1996 heard that he had exposed himself to a 17-year-old car-parts attendant in Lisburn. A spokesman for Surrey Police, which investigated the deaths of Mrs Gray's son and three others, said: "He has been convicted of an offence against a young male but instead of being discharged [the Army] sent him to a camp where he was in charge of young, vulnerable males."

The jury at Kingston Crown Court heard that Skinner, who is married with two children and is from Marton, near Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, had taken advantage of vulnerable new recruits and trainees as young as 17.

Sally Howes QC, for the prosecution, said: "The defendant was in a position of authority over the young men that he had assaulted." She said Skinner had shown one victimsado-masochistic implements and then ordered him to cane him before abusing the youngster.

Skinner was ordered to return on 22 October for sentencing. The judge told him that a jail term was inevitable.