'Shock' report into abuse of recruits will add to call for Deepcut inquiry

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The Army is bracing itself for a damning report on the training and care of young soldiers after a year-long enquiry into the suspicious deaths of four recruits at the notorious Deepcut army barracks in Surrey.

The Army is bracing itself for a damning report on the training and care of young soldiers after a year-long enquiry into the suspicious deaths of four recruits at the notorious Deepcut army barracks in Surrey.

The powerful Parliamentary Defence Select Committee, which has been examining suspicious army deaths, is expected to accuse the Army of a cover-up and obstruction of investigations.

It will recommend the establishment of an independent army complaints commission - with retrospective powers - because the force cannot be trusted to investigate itself.

Its decisions should be binding on the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the report into duty of care will recommend.

The select committee will also condemn the way the Army recruited its training staff, accusing it of sending its most difficult and troublesome soldiers to train vulnerable new recruits in order to "get them out of the way".

MPs on the committee said the report would "shock" some people by its detail. It is likely to be another blow to the reputation of the Army, which is already reeling from allegations of the abuse and manslaughter of prisoners in Iraq.

"I think it's fair to say the report is going to shock a lot of people," said one MP. "The whole process of how this was investigated is severely questioned. It will criticise how individual cases were dealt with and how other reports were dealt with. For example, no one could tell us who made certain decisions; and when reports were issued the chain of command either shelved or ignored them.

"It will look at the way the Army trained staff. They have to be more selective of the people they recruit to train staff."

In December the Independent on Sunday reported the testimony of a former Deepcut trainee who described how one "psychopathic" sergeant had thrown darts at recruits and defecated on them.

The committee's report will fall short of calling for a full public inquiry into the deaths of Privates Sean Benton, Geoff Gray, James Collinson and Cheryl James at Deepcut over a seven-year period and other recruits at Catterick in Yorkshire. The soldiers' families had campaigned for a full inquiry, but the report will add pressure for a public inquiry.

The IoS has also learned that Ministry of Defence officials have yet to grant a freedom of information request from the Gray family for their son's army medical records.

Geoff Gray Snr, whose son died at Deepcut aged 17 from two bullet wounds to the head, said that he had made the request at the beginning of February but still had not received a formal response. He welcomed the defence committee's report but wants a public inquiry.

"If there is any hint in the report that there was a failure in the duty of care of my son, or any other recruit, that's proof in my view that there should be a public inquiry."

The families have repeatedly said they are prepared to take legal action to force a public inquiry, which has the power to compel witnesses, once the various investigations are complete. These include a review that is currently being conducted by Nicholas Blake, a QC in Cherie Blair's Matrix Chambers.

Mr Gray added: "With respect, Mr Blake does not have the power to compel witnesses. If they find that there has been obstruction I will not be surprised. When Geoff took his gun from the armoury he had to sign a document. That was later shredded. So we have no idea if it was his gun that was signed out or not."

An MoD spokesman said officials would look carefully at the report and consider any recommendations.