Project forms part of Government veterans' review

Published: 22 December 2014 at 10:14

Anglia Ruskin institute working with ex-service personnel being held in police custody

An initiative to help military veterans in police custody has received Government recognition.

Project Nova, a pilot project created by Walking With The Wounded and RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity – and involving Anglia Ruskin University’s Veterans and Families Institute (VFI) forms part of a report on behalf of the Secretary of State for Justice by Stephen Phillips QC MP.

Mr Phillips’ report, entitled Former Members of the Armed Forces and the Criminal Justice System, recommends the issue of former service personnel within the criminal justice system should be considered as one of the priorities for the 2015/16 annual Libor fund, Government cash to support the commitments contained in the Armed Forces Covenant. The author also believes closer working between statutory agencies and military charities can help to reduce reoffending rates.

Project Nova has been designed by Walking With The Wounded and RFEA as an early intervention programme to identify veterans caught up in a cycle of low-level antisocial and criminal activity and to support them back into mainstream society and employment. The VFI is evaluating the work to learn more about some of the characteristics shown by veterans who have fallen foul of the law. The project is funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and works with police forces in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The report explains the project’s role in tracking former service personnel who find themselves in police custody, with the aim of identifying and understanding the root causes of their offending behaviour and reducing reoffending rates. The report also features a case study of an alcoholic serial offender who, thanks to the intervention by military charities, has shunned alcohol since his release and is now volunteering with a local social enterprise.

Matt Fossey, Director of the VFI, said:

“A small number of people who leave the Armed Forces find it difficult to adapt to civilian life and find themselves falling foul of the law, often as a result of psychological factors such as addiction to alcohol.
“Due to their circumstances, these veterans have needs which often are not understood or appreciated by the justice system as it is.
“Project Nova is a unique programme, intervening when veterans first come into contact with the police service. Working very closely with the police, the programme is providing veterans with advice and support during a very stressful time and we hope this intervention will halt a downward spiral and reduce the likelihood of their reoffending.”

Colin Back, Project Nova Co-ordinator and Lead Mentor, RFEA, said:

“The RFEA in partnership with Walking With The Wounded are pleased to provide the on-the-ground early intervention phase of Project Nova. We were extremely proud to be able to present our work to Stephen Phillips MP and his team carrying out their review into veterans in the criminal justice system.
“Early indications show that just over 2% of veterans engaged with under Project Nova have reoffended. Project Nova’s stature within Norfolk and Suffolk is growing constantly and referrals are now being received from community organisations identifying that some of their veterans are on the periphery of entering the criminal justice system. This was one of the aims of Project Nova, to catch the veteran before entering police custody.”