It was only a few years ago that the Ministry of Justice was accused of underestimating how many former members of the armed forces have ended up in the prison system. The latest figures (available from 2009) suggest that ex-service personnel comprise around 3.5 per cent of the prison population (2,820) and around the same percentage of offenders on licence (5,860). Almost all convicted veterans are men from non-commissioned ranks and 80 per cent were army careerists.
Veteran support groups, who have long complained that the government is failing to recognise how many ex-service personnel are ending up behind bars, will welcome a review announcement by Chris Grayling. The review is looking into the rehabilitation needs of ex-Armed Services personnel convicted of criminal offences and given a custodial or community sentence.
The purpose is to identify:
• why they are ending up in the justice system,
• what support is provided to them and
• how that can be improved.
The review will be led by the MP for Penrith and the Border, Rory Stewart, who served in the Armed Forces and also worked as a local official in Iraq and with the voluntary sector in Afghanistan.
The review, which is aiming to report in October 2014, will consider:
• how ex-Service personnel are identified on conviction;
• what advice and support is currently available to them;
• how to adopt and disseminate best practice relating to their rehabilitation needs, including taking evidence of effective interventions in other countries;
• consultation with the Cross-Government Military Reference Group.
Hugh Rowland is a very successful criminal and courts martial lawyer for Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich. He helps ex-service and acting service personnel with cases such as gross negligence manslaughter (‘friendly fire’, assaults, sexual assaults, burglary, aggravated TWOC and going AWOL. He says: “It is a modern day scandal that so many servicemen and women end up behind bars. If this review can help to reduce that number then it has to be a very good thing indeed”.
To contact Hugh, call him on 01473 298141 or email [email protected]
Image courtesy of [foto76] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net