Vets’ support network

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WIGAN offenders who have served in the Armed Forces are to get more support to get back on the straight and narrow as part of a new initiative.

Greater Manchester Probation Trust (GMPT), has launched the Armed Forces Network, aimed at improving the service it provides to offenders who have served in the forces - of which there are around 100 in the borough.

The scheme’s purpose is to help veterans who have become involved in the criminal justice system deal with the problems they may face and support them in leading law-abiding lives.

When offenders with a military background arrive at court in Wigan, probation staff are now trained to ask them about their experiences and help link them in with support services, as well as work with courts to ensure the right sentence is applied.

Each probation district across Greater Manchester has been earmarked a member of staff who is trained about military issues and supports the scheme.

The network’s aim is to deliver better quality information to magistrates and judges handling cases involving veterans, provide staff with training about veterans’ issues and develop close links with specialist charities and partners working in the field.

Estimates at how many people who have military experience and are in prison vary from three per cent to eight per cent. Even at the lower estimate, this represents around 8,000 people.

Trevor Dodd, placement manager in community payback in Wigan, said: “It seems we have more people coming to probation with an Armed Forces connection either directly themselves or with their family.

“There are possibly more than 100 in the borough at one time. As a father-of-two sons with military service, I want to be part of this drive to afford them extra help to deal with issues that are linked to the service.

“I’m pleased to have a specialist role in Wigan to help develop links with bodies such as the Royal British Legion, Combat Stress, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, and the Wigan Veteran’s Council to enable the offender managers to signpost people to the extra help they richly deserve.”

The Armed Forces Network, which works with partner agencies, was launched in January.