An inquest is needed to answer the serious concerns of the family of a soldier who committed suicide while on deployment in Afghanistan, says Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff.
“The family of Doug Hughes have legitimate concerns that he was known to be considering suicide but didn’t get the help he needed.
“Depression and anxiety, isolation from friends and family while on deployment, and ready access to weapons are a lethal mixture. In order to prevent a repetition of the circumstances which led to Corporal Hughes killing himself it is important that lessons are learned from the tragedy.
“Notwithstanding the decision of Coroner Gordon Matenga not to hold an inquest, circumstances surrounding the death and the concerns of the family mean this decision should now be revisited.
“An inquest would allow someone independent of the Defence Force to investigate the death and make recommendations. This is not about a witch hunt. It is about finding answers which will assist the Defence Force to help prevent a death of this nature again.
“The Chief Coroner or the Solicitor General have the power to order an inquiry and should do so.
“Doug Hughes’ family believe that he was mocked and bullied about his sexuality and that nothing was done to help him. The Defence Force must consider further whether its policies for dealing with the sexual orientation of its soldiers are adequate in light of this tragedy.
“There are good reasons why fraternisation on deployment is inappropriate and is not tolerated regardless of soldiers’ sexual orientation. But there also needs to be effective policies to deal with the circumstances which led Corporal Hughes to take his own life.
“We need to know whether Corporal Hughes’ death was avoidable and an inquest would throw light on this critical question”, says Phil Goff.