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Ex-service Personnel

Volume 563: debated on Tuesday 21 May 2013

Depending on their individual risks and needs, offenders with a military history are eligible for the full range of NOMS interventions and offender services. Many prisons have a designated support officer for veterans in custody. Often these officers have served in the forces themselves, and they provide support tailored to the experiences that veterans may have had while on active service. Several probation trusts have an equivalent role for support in the community. The MOD has also made its veterans mental health services available to ex-service men and women in custody.

Since 2008, 300 veterans have gone through the veterans treatment court system in Buffalo, New York state. Not one has reoffended. That has been so successful that 103 similar courts have been set up across the USA. Will the Minister agree to meet me and others who support this process to see whether there are lessons that we can learn from the USA and adapt for this country?

I would be happy to do that. As I hope the hon. Gentleman will have seen this morning, we are very open to new ideas throughout the criminal justice system, and spreading best practice is the way to reduce reoffending and in this case to help veterans.

The Minister, sadly, missed out on an excellent visit that the Secretary of State paid to my constituency recently, when he met offenders who were on the Royal British Legion Industries scheme; they had been through the criminal justice system and are now in work. Although it is essential that a cross-departmental approach is taken to help ex-service personnel re-integrate into society to stop them entering the criminal justice system, it is even more important to do so after they have been through it. What are the Government doing to raise awareness of the schemes that are out there to provide support and help?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes a good point. As I said, spreading information about best practice is extremely important. That is the basis of many of the reforms that we are introducing through the criminal justice system. If she perceives an information gap somewhere, I will be happy to discuss this with the Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois), who is the Minister with responsibility for veterans and who has significant overall responsibility in this area.