Wednesday, March 02, 2011

An Alternative to Custody and Probation for Military Veteran Offenders

In 2000, the Military Covenant said -

“Soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices – including the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ in the service of the Nation. In return, British soldiers must always be able to expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals, and that they (and their families) will be sustained and rewarded by commensurate terms and conditions of service.”

The Covenant clearly acknowledges that the State has a ‘duty of care’ to members of it Armed Forces.

“When I left the Army in 2004 I had been diagnosed as suffering with depression. I left the main gate of my Regiment with my TV in one hand and my kit bag in the other, not knowing where I was going or what to do” – a former Army soldier now serving 7 years in prison.

Whilst in recent times support for military veterans has undoubtedly improved, regrettably an increasing number are entering the justice system. Official estimates of numbers in prison vary between 3.5% to 9% with individual prisons reporting 14%. Accurate numbers on probation and community orders are not known; however, NAPO suggests as many as 12,500. Whichever figs are accurate, former military veterans represent the largest occupational group within our justice system; this surely indicates that something is wrong!

A recent report by the Howard League for Penal Reform, entitled ‘Leaving Forces Life’ concluded that, despite there being a great deal more help available via service charities, individuals are still falling through the net and ending up in the Justice System, often years after discharge. Issues stemming from post-service dysfunction, mental illness, poverty, addictions and marital breakdown are all contributing. None can be seen as being addressed within the ‘spirit’ of the Military Covenant.

An alternative to custody and probation for military veteran offenders is urgently needed. To that end, a new and innovative project is currently being developed. Entitled ‘The Veterans Change Partnership’, it involves four Third Sector organisations delivering intensive and purposeful residential programmes of rehabilitation, personal development, skills training and ongoing mentor support into accommodation, further training and work.

The project has been welcomed by the Minister for Prisons, Rt Hon Crispin Blunt MP and efforts are now being made to identify the necessary funding.

The organisations involved include –
Alabare’ Christian Care and Support, Exeter City YMCA, The Langley House Trust and Life Change UK.

All have a depth of experience in working with people with complex needs and who present a high risk of re-offending.

More information is available via Trevor Philpott (former Royal Marine officer) at or 07779221162

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