The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, is under pressure to clarify his response to a long-delayed government report on the treatment of veterans in the prison system after it was dismissed as “hazy” by the head of a leading military charity.
The review, carried out by the Conservative MP and QC Stephen Phillips, stated that every prisoner coming into custody in England and Wales should be asked whether they have served in the armed forces, and those that had would receive improved treatment. Mr Grayling then said this would start in January.
But Dr Hugh Milroy, the CEO of the charity Veterans Aid, said that while the initiative was “entirely sensible”, it was not clear how such checks would be carried out. “Unless there is a robust system of verifying a ‘Yes I served’ answer, this [report] will be a wasted opportunity,” he said, adding that his charity had seen many cases of homeless people pretending to be veterans.
The Independent understands that the responsibility for checking whether a prisoner served will fall on military charities. In his response, Mr Grayling also said the Ministry of Justice would “continue to work with voluntary sector colleagues” to provide services within prisons that are “tailored to ex-servicemen’s needs”. Dr Milroy said this sounded like the Government expected charities to do its work free of charge.
Veterans Aid, the UK’s leading organisation for preventing homelessness among veterans, is one of two charities being supported by The Independent’s Christmas appeal this year. It operates a drop-in centre in central London and a hostel in Stepney, east London, for veterans who have fallen on hard times.
Dr Milroy – who was one of the expert advisers appointed to assist Mr Phillips in his work – said the Government also needed to consider whether all veterans should be given the same amount of support, adding that a “one size fits all” approach would not work.
In pictures: Homeless Veterans appeal
In pictures: Homeless Veterans appeal
1/20 Glynn Barrell
Glyn Barrell is among the veterans hoping to benefit from the self-build scheme in Plymouth
2/20 Rachel Holliday
Rachel Holliday is converting a police station into a hostel
3/20 Androcles Scicluna
Veteran Androcles Scicluna says performing boosted his confidence
4/20 Christopher Cole
Christopher Cole, 51, from London, spent three years in the Army but left in 1982
5/20 Maurillia Simpson
Former servicewoman Maurillia Simpson with the medals she won at last year’s Invictus Games
Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard
6/20 Martin Rutledge
Head of The Soldiers’ Charity, Martin Rutledge, says charities sometimes allow emotion to dictate their choices
7/20 Ben Griffin
Ben Griffin wants to open people’s eyes to the cycle of political violence
8/20 Robin Horsfall
Robin Horsfall, who fought in the Falklands and helped end the Iranian embassy siege
9/20 Mark Hayward
A bed for the night and food helped Mark Hayward out of misfortune
10/20 Ashley Rosser
Ashley Rosser, who served in the RAF, at the Veterans Aid hostel in east London
11/20 Dave Henson
Britain's Invictus Games captain Dave Henson says veterans’ charities helped rebuild his life
Chris Jackson/Getty Images
12/20 Hugh Milroy
Hugh Milroy dispels myths about war-zone veterans through his work as the CEO of Veterans Aid
13/20 Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor
Former soldiers Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor work at the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Solihull under a covenant connecting veterans with employers
14/20 Mark McKillion
Mark McKillion's experience of living on the street eventually left him feeling as though the only way to escape was to end his life. He survived his desperate jump from Westminster Bridge, and VA's help has restored his "faith in humanity"
Nigel, a navy veteran, remembers living on the beach in the run-up to Christmas, when it rained every day for a week. He slept on a bench for seven years whilst suffering from Parkinson's disease.
16/20 Keith Cooper
Before Keith Cooper had his place confirmed at Avondale House in Newcastle, he was working out whether he could afford to buy a tent to live in
17/20 Simon Weston
Simon Weston, a Falklands War veteran, said even something as simple as a cup of tea can be an important step in getting the life of a homeless veteran back on track.
18/20 Ian Palmer, professor of military psychiatry
Ian Palmer, the first professor of military psychiatry to the British Armed Forces, says that the depiction of all ex-service personnel having post-traumatic stress disorder may stop people who really need help from getting it
19/20 Douglas Cameron
Evgeny Lebedev with Douglas Cameron, who had a hernia operation while serving in Burma
Johnnie Shand Kidd
20/20 Veterans Aid
General Sir Mike Jackson, President of ABF The Soldiers' Charity, called for donations to the Homeless Veterans appeal
“Without further clarity, a ‘veteran’ who has served for just three weeks in the Territorial Army, or who has been dishonourably discharged for committing a sex offence, will be afforded the same privileges as individuals who have served with honour on deployed operations,” he said.
The report also found that knowledge about the needs of former service personnel in the justice system was “patchy” and appropriate training was “a matter of luck”.
Mr Grayling said: “Most ex-service personnel have successful civilian lives and do not enter the criminal justice system – but I am determined to help the minority who have committed an offence turn their lives around.
“Society owes a huge debt of gratitude to those who have served their country, which is why our commitment to support them and their families is enshrined in the Armed Forces Covenant.”Reuse content