Private Sean Benton, 20, from Hastings, East Sussex, was found with five bullet wounds to his chest in June 1995 while undergoing training.
Brig Christopher Coles, Head of Army Personnel Services Group said:
On behalf of the Army, I want to repeat the apology that I gave to Private Sean Benton’s family at the start of this inquest.
The Army deeply regrets Sean’s death on the 9th June 1995. We are sorry that it has taken so long for his family to have the answers to their questions regarding his death.
We care about our soldiers above all else. Where things go wrong, we are not afraid to be held accountable for our actions. The Army long ago accepted that there were significant shortcomings at Deepcut at the time of Sean’s death. We took too long to recognise and rectify that situation. The resources available to those responsible for training, the levels of supervision for the trainees, the availability of adequate welfare facilities and the policies for using trainees for guard duties were not good enough.
This Inquest has now examined very carefully how these and other issues affected Sean. The Army co-operated fully at every stage of the Coroner’s work.
The Coroner has found that inadequate instructions were given to prevent Sean accessing a weapon. He also found there was a failure to give Sean appropriate welfare support and better support might have made a difference.
The Army accepts these findings. I also note the Coroner’s findings and particularly regret that one NCO (non-commissioned Officer) subjected Sean to verbal abuse and physical violence and that he was attacked by a group of trainees acting in a cowardly way. This level of abuse was unacceptable then and it is now. It is completely counter to our values and standards and – should it be discovered – we will deal with it.
In every area relevant to Sean’s death, the Army has made significant changes in how we train and care for trainees both at Deepcut and at all our other training establishments. The four deaths at Deepcut, and our desire to learn the lessons from them, have been at the heart of the improvements the Army has made.
The Coroner has recognised these improvements in assessing how the training regime has changed since Sean’s death.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Sean’s family. His parents sadly passed away before hearing the full details of what happened to their son 23 years ago; so too did his brother, Lee. His twin brother, Tony, and sister, Tracy, have subsequently represented the family with courage and dignity throughout this inquest. We are very sorry for their loss. I assure you we will take on board all the findings made by the Coroner today.