Anger over cadet plan for offenders

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The Independent Online
A police scheme to offer potential young offenders - including some who have been cautioned by police - a period in cadet forces to keep them out of trouble has angered the Ministry of Defence.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, who has supported military-style discipline for young offenders, launched the scheme yesterday at Dover Castle in Kent.

But the Ministry of Defence, which was not consulted, is livid. An MoD source said yesterday: "Imagine the PR implications," one said. "A youngster wants to join the Army Cadets and ends up serving alongside someone who has been arrested for shoplifting in his parents' shop last week." The MoD is concerned that the scheme will further harm recruiting.

Cadets are trained in the basics of army field craft, including the ability to handle and fire a weapon, which also makes the MoD uncomfortable. "They also learn survival skills, camouflage and stealth as well as useful housebreaking skills like abseiling in the dark," the MoD source said.

Mr Howard was invited to attend as MP for Folkestone, one of the areas covered by the scheme, and not as Home Secretary. However, he has consistently backed the idea of military-style training for young offenders. The first civilians, carefully selected, are to be sent to a special civilian wing at the dreaded "glasshouse" Military Corrective Training Centre at Colchester in the autumn.

The "Stop" project - providing cadet training for potential offenders - is a Kent police initiative with the Kent Army Cadet Force, Kent Sea Cadets and the Kent Wing, Air Training Corps. It is being funded by the Home Office Small Grants Scheme. It is aimed at young people aged 13 to 16, who are judged by the police to be "at risk" of offending. This may include those who have committed minor offences that would institute a police caution.

On the record, the MoD said: "Great care will be taken to ensure there are no adverse effects on current members of the cadets."