Scottish Prison Service Veterans in Custody Support Officers
In response to growing interest in veterans in the criminal justice system, especially those receiving custodial sentences, the Scottish Veterans Prison In‑Reach Group (SVPIRG) was established in 2010. It comprises Scottish Prison Service (SPS) staff, third sector representation (such as Poppy Scotland and Combat Stress) to promote the interests and welfare of ex‑Service personnel in custody and through veteran association groups. The group acts as a conduit for communication by gathering and disseminating information to veterans and veterans' families. It also pursues relevant research to inform policy and practice. The SVPIRG aims to ensure that incarcerated ex‑Service personnel benefit from the full range of services and interventions currently provided by SPS and partner agencies.
The SPS is committed to providing appropriate levels of intervention and care to all offenders sentenced to custody. A variety of therapeutic interventions and services such as the Substance Related Offending Behaviour Programme, the Violence Prevention Programme and Constructs are available to veterans through the Integrated Case Management (ICM) system.
ICM manages a prisoner's progression through custody and return into the community by facilitating close cooperation and joint working practices between criminal justice agencies, in particular with criminal justice social work, but also with the police and other community‑based organisations. ICM co-ordinates risk assessment and risk management, provides appropriate support services, facilitates community reintegration and promotes desistance from reoffending.
Mental health issues associated with veterans and their offending behaviour can also be addressed through existing channels of referral provided by SPS, the NHS and partner agencies.
Military service may have exposed an individual to stressful situations which may not be routinely experienced by the general population. In addition to the services and interventions provided by SPS, the NHS and partner agencies, SVPIRG aims to channel specialist support services available from dedicated veterans groups.
A Veteran in Custody Support Officer (VICSO) has been established in each Scottish prison, including privately managed Addiewell and Kilmarnock, to co‑ordinate activities and services. Veterans groups are encouraged to 'reach in' to ex‑military personnel to appraise them of the services and assistance they can provide to them and their families, while serving a custodial sentence and also, equally importantly, on release back into the community. It is a 'sign posting' initiative for those veterans who wish to avail themselves of the services on offer in respect to issues such as accommodation, pensions and finance, substance misuse and stress.
As well as the local VICSO 'champion' working with known veterans, they also have an equally important role in encouraging, through posters, leaflets and publicity, those veterans who may have chosen not to reveal their service record to come forward to benefit from the specialist assistance on offer from veterans associations.
Fatal Accident Inquiries
In the conflicts in Iraq and now Afghanistan, the bodies of Scottish‑domiciled Armed Forces personnel killed on active service were and are repatriated to RAF Lyneham or Brize Norton along with other British casualties. This meant that they became subject to the system of coroners' inquests in England and Wales. Where bereaved families in Scotland wished to attend the coroner's inquest into the death of their loved ones, they were obliged to travel to Wiltshire or Oxfordshire in the south of England to attend the proceedings.
There is no provision in the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1976 to permit a fatal accident inquiry to be held into deaths out with Scotland (or the continental shelf opposite Scotland), military or otherwise. However, legislative change has now been made which will allow fatal accident inquiries to be held into the deaths of Scottish Armed Forces personnel killed abroad in the future.
Sections 12 and 50 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 will permit the circumstances of deaths of Scottish Armed Forces personnel who are killed abroad to be investigated by a fatal accident inquiry in Scotland.
These provisions will be commenced by the Ministry of Justice as soon as it is practicable. A protocol is also being drawn up between the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, MoD and Ministry of Justice on how transfers of responsibility for investigations into Scottish military deaths will be carried out. There have already been constructive discussions with the MoD on this matter.