A SCHEME piloted in Bury St Edmunds to help past and present service people in trouble with the police is being rolled out across Suffolk and Norfolk.
It is a joint project by the Royal British Legion and Suffolk and Norfolk police.
Suffolk RBL manager Adrienne Wakeling heard of a similar scheme in Kent and discussed it with legion volunteer Richard Houston, who served 24 years with the Royal Engineers and is now a civilian custody duty officer at Bury’s Police Investigation Centre (PIC). Working with Insp Zoe Finn, they came up with a plan that meant no extra work for custody officers.
In six months, only six people have been referred but Insp Finn said: “We haven’t had a great number of referrals but those we’ve had have all taken some assistance.
“For example, one came in recently with memory loss issues. Richard immediately identified it and when he left custody there was a taxi waiting to take him for help.
“A lot of people come into custody because they have a specific problem that they can’t solve. This is a link into another organisation that can help them.”
Mr Houston said: “People associate the legion with pensioners not all service people, ex-service people, including thereserve forces and their families.”
Mrs Wakeling said the scheme helped to overcome reluctance to ask for help. “There’s a lot of pride and in some way feel they have let down the unit they served with by getting into trouble,” she said.
It helped former Royal Fusilier Peter Shefford. Both his parents died shortly after he left the Army in 2000, having served in Northern Ireland and Bosnia, and he turned to drink, entering a spiral of offending which included assault.
As part of the legion’s help they suggested he volunteer at Ickworth House where he became interested in trees and gardening so the legion helped fund him on a course at Otley College.
Now he has his own gardening and tree surgery business and a home near Haverhill. He said. “If something like this was there back then, I would have got the help straight away.”