Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Napo Report on Armed Forces and the Criminal Justice System

The Assistant General Secretary of Napo recently wrote a report describing the number of ex-military personnel currently in the criminal justice system. In the report he said - "A survey conducted by Napo during the summer of 2009 found that 12,000 former armed service personnel were under the supervision of the Probation Service in England and Wales on either community sentences or on parole.

Research published by Napo last year found that 8,500 former veterans were in custody at any one time in the UK, following conviction of a criminal offence.

There are therefore twice as many veterans in the criminal justice system than are currently serving in military operations in Afghanistan. Indeed the total number of men and women in active service in all locations on 31-05-09 was 13,400 (not including Iraq).

Napo’s survey would suggest therefore that at least 6% of those currently under supervision are former veterans. The custodial study of 2008 concluded that 8.5% of the prison population had an armed service record. Previous studies by the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence had found that the proportion of those in prison with a service record varied from between 4-6% (Home Office) to 16.7% (MOD). A 2007 study carried out by Veterans in Prison, based on prisoners self certification, concluded that 9% of all inmates were veterans.


The current and previous briefings produced by Napo suggest there are at least as 20,000 former Services personnel, either in jail, on parole or on community supervision. This is twice as many as on active service in Afghanistan. Indeed the numbers in the entire criminal justice system exceed all soldiers on active service by some 6,000. The most common offence is violence occurring in a domestic setting. Most are either drug or alcohol related. Most of those convicted report problems of adjusting to civilian life and the lack of available support. Many report negatively of the effect of the culture of heavy drinking in the armed forces.

Napo believes that the situation is unacceptable, that active steps need to be taken to offer both support on discharge from the forces and referral to relevant agencies if individuals do entre the criminal justice system.

The case studies show the extreme difficulties that some veterans experience in making the transition from active service to employment in the community. Support packages would not only be in the public interest but would safe the taxpayer significant sums of money in the medium and long term.

A number of specific steps could be taken to reduce the number of veterans who find themselves within the criminal justice system.
• All reasonable steps should be taken to reduce the number of men sentenced to custody or community penalties who had previously been in the armed forces and experienced trauma and stress.

• Information and referral services should be provided to ex-armed services personnel on arrest, at report writing stage and on reception into custody.

• Armed services personnel should receive information and education on the benefits of stress counselling in general and be given support where it is appropriate.

• Napo fully supports the work of the Prison In-Reach Project, sponsored by the MOD, and urges that its activities be prioritised by government.

• The government should provide stress counselling on site and on return from active service for all armed services personnel

• The Armed Services must address the effects of alcohol and drug misuse by personnel and provide adequate help and support.

• Programmes must be readily available in military and community settings to deal with the consequences of domestic violence and other probation programmes should be made widely available to the forces.

• Consideration should be given to the creation of an Armed Forces Inspectorate with powers to carry out thematic reports into issues of public concern.

• Consideration should be given to creating a Services Representation Body, similar in function to that which exists for the ranks in the Police.

Until the government admits that it does have a real problem in terms with veterans in the criminal justice system and the lack of support and referral it is difficult to see how interested parties can embark on solutions".

Harry Fletcher
Assistant General Secretary

September 2009

The report again higlights our apparent failure to support ex-military personnel, particularly those suffering with PTSD and other mental health issues post their return to civilian life. The full report can be found at 'Articles and Reports' on the left of this blog and at http://www.lifechangeuk.com/reports-evaluations/ .

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