Young soldiers training at Deepcut Army barracks lived in a “highly sexualised" environment where senior staff preyed on recruits in an “abuse and misuse” of power, an inquest heard.
An absence of supervision and welfare also helped create a “morally chaotic environment” at the barracks where 18-year-old Private Cheryl James was found dead from a bullet wound in November 1995, the Army’s director of personal services Brigadier John Donnelly conceded.
Brig Donnelly had previously apologised to Pte James’ family for a situation at Deepcut which he recognised as having failed new soldiers who were stationed there waiting to do phase two training, having completed phase one.
On the third day of an inquest into her death, Woking Coroner's Court heard that sexual activity was so rife at the barracks that a room was unofficially put aside for young men to have sexual relationships, which were banned in rooms.
Relationships took place between recruits and senior staff, and shortly before Pte James’ arrival a Regimental Sergeant Major was dismissed over “impropriety regarding sexual and alcohol matters”.
The court was told that women only began training at the barracks two years before Pte James’ death, and Alison Foster QC, representing her family, suggested there was a “misogynistic” atmosphere.
Asked by Ms Foster about evidence of a “highly sexualised atmosphere” and whether he accepted that there was an “abuse and misuse” of power at the barracks, Brig Donnelly said: “There was certainly a sexualised atmosphere at Deepcut, yes.”
Ms Foster said: “Do you accept that this could present a morally chaotic environment for a young female person of teenage years?”, adding: “The pressure on a young female recruit could be intolerable, couldn’t it?"
Brig Donnelly replied: “Yes. We did not have the structures in place to provide a proper duty of care.”
Asked if there was a “significant culture of misogyny in the Army, Brig Donnelly replied: “The attitude and language in certain parts of the Army represented a misogynistic viewpoint, which is seen as of its time.”