Ex-Service personnel in the Criminal Justice System (CJS) have distinct patterns of offending and mental health problems compared to offenders from a non-Service background, according to a Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) funded report.

Researchers at King’s College London looked at ex-Service personnel identified through the CJS as having social or mental health needs. They found ex-Service personnel were more likely to have Anxiety disorders (37% of veterans versus 13% non-veterans), which included PTSD, and Adjustment Disorder (8%vs6%*), as well as higher levels of co-occurring mental health problems than people with a non-Service background.

Offenders from a non-Service background had a higher prevalence of Schizophrenia (5% of veterans vs 12% non-veterans), Personality Disorder (8%vs11%*), ADHD (1%vs3%*) and substance use (17%vs28%*) than ex-Service personnel.

The types of offence committed were also notably different. Report authors found higher rates of interpersonal violence (37%vs32%*) and motoring offences (8%vs4%) and less acquisitive offending (theft, burglary, fraud) (10%vs16%*)among ex-Service personnel.

Researchers found that the likelihood of offending behaviour increases with time since leaving the Armed Forces, with 60% of the cohort having left over five years ago. Almost a quarter left between one and five years ago highlighting the potential for early intervention.

Ex-Service personnel in the CJS tended to be older and in employment compared to the rest of the offending population. This is likely to be due to their time in Service delaying the offending behaviour.

Recommendations from the report include:

  • Workforce training – Priority must be placed on ensuring that staff members working in the CJS are able to identify ex-Service personnel, are aware of their needs and have knowledge of available local and regional services.
  • Service development – Having identified the different clinical needs of the ex-Service population, it is important that there are the services to meet those needs.
  • Offence reduction work – further research is needed to better understand what offence reduction (especially violence reduction) methods work in this population, in order to tackle the mental health, welfare, alcohol and substance misuse issues which have been found to be associated with offending among ex-Service personnel.
  • Assessment of PTSD – Specific assessment of the consequences of previous trauma and PTSD is needed in the CJS. Awareness of the role of trauma in offending behaviour and the need for Trauma Informed Care (TIC) has been slow to gain traction in the UK.

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces of Mind Trust, said: “This study by King’s College London has highlighted interesting correlations between ex-Service personnel and offending behaviour. The recommendations included in the report would help the CJS staff to provide a service that meets the needs of ex-Service personnel, and encourage increased collaboration across the Armed Forces charity sector, MOD and the NHS.”

Dr Deirdre MacManus, Clinical Senior Lecturer at King’s College London, said: “A large body of research has investigated risk factors for offending among military personnel, but few studies have explored the needs of those who end up the Criminal Justice System and whether they differ from offenders without a history of military Service.

“We are very grateful to have received funding from FiMT to carry out this research and we have been able to make important recommendations for improvements to staff training and provision of care and service in the Criminal Justice System to meet the needs of the often neglected ex-Service population.”

You can read the full report here