MP to probe offending by veterans

A Government review is set to look into the reasons why some of Britain's veterans turn to a life of crime after they leave the armed forces.

The review, ordered by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, will also look at the support provided for ex-service personnel convicted of criminal offences and given custodial or community sentences, and how that support can be improved.

Latest figures, taken from a study by the Ministry of Defence in 2010, suggest that ex-servicemen and women make up around 3.5% of the prison population, and around the same percentage of offenders on licence, while a lmost all convicted veterans were men from non-commissioned ranks and 80% were army careerists.

The review, led by Tory MP Rory Stewart, a veteran himself, is expected to last six months and will consider issues including how ex-service personnel are identified on conviction and what advice and support is available to them - as well as looking at effective interventions in other countries.

Mr Grayling said: "After leaving the armed forces the vast majority of veterans continue to make a hugely positive contribution to our country.

"But for a few the transition to civilian life isn't always straightforward, and some end up in the criminal justice system.

"I want to make sure that we take specific account of their needs and experiences and make sure that they get the right rehabilitation to get their lives back together again. It's the very least we can do for people who put their lives on the line for our country."

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond added: "Armed forces veterans have made a significant commitment to their country and it is right that the Government should help support them when they hit tough times.

"That is why we should look at how we can improve the level of support and rehabilitation available to veterans who end up in the criminal justice system."

Mr Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Border, who served in the armed forces and also worked as a local official in Iraq and with the voluntary sector in Afghanistan, said: "Veterans have made a unique contribution to our society, and we owe them a huge debt.

"Their needs are specific, and it is an honour to have the opportunity to support veterans in this way. I am very much looking forward to working with veterans organisations, the armed forces and the Ministry of Justice to make sure we have the best programme for veterans in the world."

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