Deepcut Review

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:21 pm on 29th March 2006.

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Photo of Lord Ramsbotham Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench 4:21 pm, 29th March 2006

My Lords, I would like very much to associate myself with all the remarks made by my noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall. He had the experience of commanding soldiers at a training depot. At the same depot, I had the experience of commanding child soldiers, including, at that time, some 15 year-olds. I remember the experience well. It was rather like commanding a ticking time-bomb in many ways, but you had to adopt different techniques to motivate them and to ensure that they were properly supervised.

That is not the purpose of what I wanted to say. I have found that there are certain parallels in the report and the inquiry with suicides in prison. We have devoted a great deal of attention to these in your Lordships' House. I am very pleased to see in the report the clear recommendation that the impetus to make certain that conditions and treatment are right should come from the very top. That must start with Ministers and go all the way down. I was delighted to see that.

The press and many of the public have regarded the fact that these four deaths took place at Deepcut as an indication of a "conspiracy" at Deepcut. I remember exactly the same suspicion about HMP Brixton following the suicides of five Irish prisoners. Immediately there was suspicion that something was going on against Irish people as opposed to the fact that these were sad and random affairs. Each suicide needed investigation because each had separate circumstances. There is a great danger of trying to make a generalisation when that may not apply.

The most important point, which I do not yet see recognised in the report, is the question of time. A week ago I saw the parents of a young man who had committed suicide in a prison four and a half years ago. The inquest has only just taken place. Imagine what the family have been through in that time. One of the problems of this inquiry is again that the families have been waiting an enormously long time to hear the outcome. I therefore ask the Minister whether he will, when he goes through the recommendations, consider the word "time", see what can be done to speed up the inquiry process and make certain that the families particularly affected are given the facts as soon as possible to help them come to terms with their tragic bereavement.