Posted on July 11, 2019
Regular screening was recommended by a coroner following an inquest into the deaths of two infantrymen found hanged in the same Northern Ireland barracks. But in a leaked letter, Gen Sir Nick Carter, head of the armed forces, said screening was “potentially harmful”.
Human rights charity Liberty, which represents the mothers of the soldiers, said it was concerned by the decision. An inquest this year found that Corporal James Ross, 30, died an accidental death in December 2012, while the coroner recorded a verdict of suicide on the death of Rifleman Darren Mitchell, 20 – less than three months later – in February 2013.
Both men were serving with the 2nd Battalion The Rifles and had previously been in active service in Afghanistan. They were based at Abercorn Barracks in Ballykinler, County Down, when they died. Following the inquest, Joseph McCrisken, the coroner for Northern Ireland, criticised the Army’s poor record-keeping, which meant crucial records for the two dead soldiers were missing.
This included post-deployment monitoring reports, up-to-date records of malaria jabs, as well as the recommendations of its own service inquiry into their deaths. The inquest also heard about eight documented cases of self-harming by soldiers at the barracks.
Mr McCrisken said he would write to the Army to recommend more proactive mental health testing, saying: “I believe the Army could carry out mandatory screening for mental health problems on a more regular basis.”