A joint project to support serving Armed Forces personnel and veterans that come into custody in Surrey has been launched by the Police and Crime Commissioner and Surrey Police thanks to funding from the Armed Forces Covenant.
The ‘Veterans in the Criminal Justice System’ service means anyone with a military background who end up in one of Surrey’s three custody suites will be offered the opportunity to be referred to SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.
Surrey aims to provide support for members of the Armed Forces community who find themselves in the criminal justice system whilst helping reduce re-offending.
Under the new project, officers in the Surrey Police custody centres in Staines, Guildford and Salfords will now establish whether any detainees have a military connection as part of the initial risk assessment carried out.
With their permission, their details will then be referred to SSAFA who can offer practical, emotional and financial support to serving personnel, veterans and their families. Posters and leaflets will also be on display in the custody suites to encourage people to seek the help of SSAFA.
The pilot is being funded by the Armed Forces Covenant which both the PCC and Chief Constable Nick Ephgrave signed up to in February. The covenant sets out the commitment to promote both the Office of the Surrey PCC and Surrey Police as armed forces-friendly organisations.
PCC David Munro said: “When I signed the Armed Forces Covenant, I gave my commitment to helping ensure our servicemen and women, both past and present, are treated fairly and given the support they deserve.
“The vast majority of military personnel go on to lead normal civilian lives but sadly a small minority of those who have served can struggle to readjust to civilian life – we must seek to give the appropriate help to those people wherever possible. I hope this project will give those from an Armed Forces background who find themselves in custody the right kind of support for the often complex needs they have.
“In addition I hope this scheme can go some way to ensuring they don’t find themselves in the criminal justice system again and reduce re-offending as a result.”
Chief Inspector for Criminal Justice Custody John Davies said: “I am very proud that Surrey Police is going to pilot this initiative, which I hope will be of benefit to detainees with a military connection. Anyone with an Armed Forces background who is brought into custody will have the opportunity to access SSAFA and get the support they need.
“As well as promoting Surrey Police as an armed forces-friendly organisation, the initiative is also aimed at reducing the number of repeat offenders being brought into custody and I am looking forward to working with SSAFA to ensure that this scheme is a success.”
Colonel Bob Crawley, Chairman of SSAFA’s Surrey Branch, said: “We welcome the new partnership with Surrey Police and look forward to supporting servicemen and veterans who are clearly at a difficult period in their lives and, when needed, their families too. While this is a new project for us in Surrey it is totally in line with SSAFA’s over-riding aim of helping all members of the Armed Forces community who require assistance whatever their circumstances; it’s what we do.
“The members of my Branch are now ready to help any new client who passes his or her contact details to us either through the police or in person.”