News & Events

Paul Greaney QC at the Deepcut Inquest – Verdict delivered


The Coroner hearing the inquest into the death of Private Sean Benton at Deepcut Barracks in 1995 has delivered his verdict. His Honour Judge Peter Rook QC described a toxic culture at the barracks and said that Pte Benton was frequently the recipient of harsh treatment. The Coroner made his ruling after hearing evidence from more than 170 witnesses over 40 days. Mr Greaney represented the family of Sean Benton at the inquest and led Jesse Nichols of Doughty Street Chambers. He was instructed by Emma Norton of Liberty,

The Coroner’s findings included a series of serious criticisms of Deepcut, the Army and Surrey Police:

  • The Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) in charge of Sean’s troop, Sergeant Andrew Gavaghan, physically assaulted and humiliated him on numerous occasions, including publicly in front of other trainees and NCOs.
  • Sergeant Gavaghan physically assaulted at least 10 other trainees – including violently assaulting teenage girls, assaulting a young male trainee with a broom handle, punching and kicking others, and smashing one trainee’s head on a radiator.
  • That both a Sgt and multiple trainees were able to repeatedly assault and humiliate trainees revealed a highly concerning regime: inadequate monitoring allowed this abusive and wholly unacceptable conduct to take place; and the fact that it took place demosntrated the inability on the part of trainees to raise concerns, even of such a serious nature.
  • Multiple NCOs used physically excessive or overly repetitive punishments at Deepcut that went well beyond legitimate sanctions.
  • The ratio of senior staff to trainees was “wholly inadequate”, with one NCO in charge of up to 400 recruits at times.
  • There was no welfare officer or welfare policy at Deepcut.
  • There was “ample evidence” available to NCOs that Sean was vulnerable and the Army knew in the period before Sean’s death that he was deteriorating badly. Despite this, no adequate support or welfare was put in place to help him.
  • A decision was made to discharge Sean from the Army. Senior officers knew that Sean would be devastated and that he would be at risk of impulsive self-harm. The Coroner found that there was a basic failure to prevent Sean accessing a weapon; had simple steps been taken, Sean would not have died.
  • The investigation into Sean’s death was “woefully lacking”. Surrey Police failed to take charge and investigate his death properly, with the most basic steps not taken. This significantly hindered the current investigation and meant that some questions could never be answered.

Media coverage of the case can be found here:


Paul Greaney KC

Call 1993 | Silk 2010


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