'It's a cop out' - Former Army Major from Scarborough speaks out about government row into recording military veteran suicides
A former Army Major from Scarborough has condemned the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) after they said that it is not feasible to ask coroners to record the number of military veteran suicides.
John Senior, who founded the Heroes Welcome UK charity, slammed the MoJ after a JPIMedia investigation uncovered a row at the heart of government over the issue.
And the former Army Major wasn’t pleased with how the issue was being handled, believing the MoJ to be trying to find an easy way out of pulling together such records.
“It seems to me to be a cop out,” he said. “It’s easy enough to find out if a man or a woman has served or not.
“It would seem, to me, to be a very simple tick in the box question. All service records are kept, why would that be difficult? Other than in extreme cases, the service records are available, so why would it be a problem? I don’t understand it.”
Currently, a row is rumbling on within the government, with the MoJ’s stance clashing with that of the Ministry of Defence, after Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood announced the government would begin a study into suicide rates among veterans who previously served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr Senior believes that other issues in government could be getting in the way.
“The situation at the moment seems to be that the government are so caught in the headlights with Brexit and other things that they’re failing to actually look after the needs and wishes of the people around the country,” he added.
“I think that everyone would agree that the well-being of our servicemen and women is absolutely paramount and tracing these records seems to me to be a very simple thing to resolve, rather than somebody being difficult within the Ministry of Justice.”
A national charity has also called for a change in the law to settle the row.
Dr Walter Busuttil, Medical Director of national veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress, said it is now up to MPs to step in and make it a statutory responsibility on coroners to record veteran suicides.
“If they want to record things properly then they are going to have to change the law,” he said.
He said it sounded a viable idea for coroners’ IT systems to be linked to MoD pension records, to verify if someone was a veteran.
“There are precedents, it can be done,” he said.