Family of Seaham's Deepcut solider given go ahead to apply for fresh inquest

Private Geoff Gray had begun his career with the Army after leaving school.
Private Geoff Gray had begun his career with the Army after leaving school.

The parents of a solider found shot dead at his Army base say they are "one step closer to justice" after they were given permission to apply for a new inquest into his death.

The Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC MP has given his consent for the family of Private Geoff Gray to apply to the High Court for a fresh inquest into the circumstances surrounding his death.

Private Geoff Gray's parents, Diane and Geoff.

Private Geoff Gray's parents, Diane and Geoff.

Seaham-born Private Gray, 17, was found dead from two bullet wounds to the head at the Deepcut Army Barracks in Surrey, on September 17, 2001.

The original inquest took place on March 19, 2002, and the coroner recorded an open verdict which did not include a narrative conclusion.

His parents Geoff and Diane have never believed the authorities' view he took his own life and, along with the families of three other recruits found dead in similar circumstances, have campaigned for transparency in the investigations into the tragedies.

Today, the Grays thanked the experts who have helped push the Government to agree to the new hearing.

Private Geoff Gray, who died aged 17.

Private Geoff Gray, who died aged 17.

Geoff Snr, 54, said: "We would like to thank our legal team for all their hard work.

"After wading through 32,000 documents, they came up with a compelling application.

"We are one step closer to get justice for our Geoff."

The news of the Government's decision came on Geoff Snr's birthday,

The family has been helped by John Cooper QC and assisted by Louise Scott.

Diane, 52, added: "I'm over the moon because we have been waiting all these years and at least it has happened in my life time, when you think about what happened to Pte Benton's parents, who both died of cancer.

"We applied in January and we have waited since then and we kept being told 'You will hear soon.'

"I think now we will get to the truth."

The Grays and their team lodged a formal application with the Attorney General in January this year, requesting the original inquest be quashed and a fresh one ordered.

The permission from Mr Wright follows on from a new inquest held into the death of Private Cheryl James, while the family of Private Sean Benton have already been granted their wish for a new hearing to be held.

Pte Benton's parents have since died, with the cause taken on by his siblings.

Liberty, which has been offering support to the Benton and James families, has also been working with the loved ones of Private James Collinson, who died of a single gunshot wound to the head at the base as they too seek a new inquest.

The Attorney General said on confirming the Grays could proceed with their case: "Having considered the application, I have given consent to the family of Private Geoff Gray to apply to the High Court for a new inquest into his death.

"I am satisfied that there is new material evidence available that was not put before the inquest in 2001, and I believe that it is in the interests of justice for the application for a new inquest to be heard by the High Court."

In a statement from the Government, it said the Attorney General has the authority to decide whether an application can be made to the High Court for a new inquest to be opened.

He has no power to order a new coronial inquest himself.

A new inquest can only be ordered by the High Court on an application made either by the Attorney or by a third party with the consent of the Attorney.

Before an application can be made, the attorney has to be satisfied that there is a reasonable prospect that the court would be persuaded to open a new inquest.

These decisions are made as part of his public interest function, independently of Government and strictly on the basis of the evidence.

The attorney concluded, in this case, that there was sufficient grounds of challenge set out in the applications to have a reasonable prospect of success.