A shameful chapter in the history of the British Army

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The Independent Online

The more we learn about the sickening regime at the Army's Deepcut barracks in Surrey, the more indefensible the Government's refusal to hold a full public inquiry into this scandal becomes. Investigations into the mysterious deaths of four young recruits at Deepcut, between 1995 and 2002, have exposed a culture of bullying, sexual abuse and sadism towards young recruits. In October, a former Deepcut training instructor was jailed for multiple sex attacks on young soldiers over a five year period. On Monday, a dossier compiled by Surrey Police was passed to the House of Commons Defence Committee outlining more than 100 accusations of abuse - including rape, indecent assault and degrading treatment - which they had recorded in their lengthy investigation into the barracks.

The more we learn about the sickening regime at the Army's Deepcut barracks in Surrey, the more indefensible the Government's refusal to hold a full public inquiry into this scandal becomes. Investigations into the mysterious deaths of four young recruits at Deepcut, between 1995 and 2002, have exposed a culture of bullying, sexual abuse and sadism towards young recruits. In October, a former Deepcut training instructor was jailed for multiple sex attacks on young soldiers over a five year period. On Monday, a dossier compiled by Surrey Police was passed to the House of Commons Defence Committee outlining more than 100 accusations of abuse - including rape, indecent assault and degrading treatment - which they had recorded in their lengthy investigation into the barracks.

Yesterday the Armed Forces minister, Adam Ingram, announced yet another limited inquiry into the affair before the Commons. At the same time he warned against giving too much weight to these latest allegations of abuse before they are substantiated. Mr Ingram's words of caution might have had something to recommend them, had it not been for the fact that a catalogue of appalling treatment has already been admitted to by the Army. What these latest allegations indicate is that the problem was even more widespread than we previously feared.

Some argue the Army has learnt lessons from the scandal. Moves are under way to limit the access young recruits have to live ammunition. Senior officers have begun to stamp out the brutal initiation procedures still common to barrackroom life. But Deepcut now represents something more than the twisted regime of one isolated Army camp. It symbolises a problem that goes much deeper.

The Government has a clear duty to all those who have suffered at Deepcut to establish a full public inquiry. Only a public inquiry can hold the Army accountable for the disgraceful way it has repeatedly tried to sweep this affair under the carpet. Only a public inquiry will satisfy the families of the dead recruits, who have campaigned so long for answers and justice.

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