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Training those in the criminal justice system to understand the issues faced by veterans

People working in the criminal justice system are being given training through C&I to help them understand the problems and issues faced by veterans.

The scheme, run by the Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service, (TILS), offers knowledge and insight into military culture and jargon, and problems in transitioning to civilian life. It also explores the offending patterns of veterans, the role of trauma in offending behaviours and common mental health issues experienced by veterans.

Part of a project commissioned by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, the trauma-informed training is being offered to a wide range of organisations working with offenders across London.

C&I Counselling Psychologist, Silvia Miranda, who leads the project, said: “The training helps people who are dealing with veterans to understand what they are going through and why they may be behaving in this way. It means the veterans can be given appropriate help and support.”

One of the key elements of the sessions is the contribution of former veteran, John Allison, a regular trainer in the project. He speaks about his own experiences of transition after 24 years in the forces, serving with the Royal Engineers and the Intelligence Corps.

John said: “A couple of years after the military, I had a lot of things going on; I was struggling with the challenges of self-employment, tackling issues related to the loss of my mother and brother, plus my dad was ill. I really felt the loss of the army family and finding suitable housing was a major issue too.”

John was referred to the Veterans Mental Health TIL Service at C&I and that helped him to recover and cope with the changes in his life.

New insight

He said: “Hearing my story brings it home to people. They appreciate the challenges that veterans may face in transition and it helps them to understand, and know what to do and how to help.”

A recent training session was held for members of the Metropolitan Police, British Transport Police and Magistrates, which included an interactive presentation with videos and discussions. Those who attended agreed it had given them new insight into the difficulties veterans face.

Uxbridge Magistrate, Rita Biddulph, said: “The training was wonderful, particularly hearing John’s story. It makes us understand the problems and know what we can do. Any history of PTSD is part of mitigation and has to be taken into consideration.”

Chair of the West London Bench, Fiona Blackwell, said: “Hopefully, by the time we see people, someone should have asked them whether they have served in the forces, but if not, at least we know to ask, and we know what to look out for. That information about an offender is an important part of mitigation.

Simon Shaw, from the Training Team at the Metropolitan Police, said: “We learnt, in a lot more detail, about how veterans are affected and how to get them the help they need. Our officers are dealing with veterans, arresting them if they commit offences, questioning them; so they need that insight.”

David Teale, also from the Met Police Training Team, said: “It was great to get practical tips on how to help, and to think about coming at problems from different angles. We have colleagues in the police force who have been through difficult, traumatic incidents, who may be suffering in a similar way, so it helped us to think about that, and what can be done to help them in a practical way too.”

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