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Full inquest into gay soldier’s death called for

Mon 4 Mar 2013 In: New Zealand Daily News

Corporal Douglas Hughes Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says an inquest is needed to answer the serious concerns of the family of a soldier who committed suicide while on deployment in Afghanistan. Corporal Douglas Hughes, 26, was reportedly dealing with a number of emotional issues, including struggling with his sexuality, when he took his own life last April. “The family of Doug Hughes have legitimate concerns that he was known to be considering suicide but didn’t get the help he needed,” Goff says. “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,” Goff says. “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.” If you need support due to any issues raised in this story, you can call 0800 OUTLINE. Did you know Douglas Hughes and want to speak up? Email news@gaynz.com.    

Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff

First published: Monday, 4th March 2013 - 9:08am

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