Military Veterans in the Criminal Justice System

Research Paper Title

Offending behaviour, health and wellbeing of military veterans in the criminal justice system.


A small but significant proportion of military veterans become involved in the criminal justice system (CJS) after leaving service. Liaison and Diversion (L&D) services aim to identify vulnerable offenders in order to provide them with the health/welfare support they need, and (where possible) divert them away from custody. An administrative database of L&D service-users was utilised to compare the needs of veterans with those of non-veteran L&D service-users.


National data collected from 29 L&D services in 2015-2016 was utilised. Of the 62,397 cases, 1,067 (2%) reported previous service in the Armed Forces, and 48,578 had no previous service history. The associations between veteran status and socio-demographic characteristics, offending behaviour, health- and mental health-problems were explored. The associations between specific types of offending and mental health problems within the veterans in the sample were also investigated.


Veterans tended to be older, and less likely to be unemployed than non-veterans, but just as likely to have unstable living arrangements (including homelessness). Veteran status was associated with increased levels of interpersonal violence, motoring offences, anxiety disorders and hazardous drinking patterns. Veteran status was associated with decreased levels of acquisitive offending, schizophrenia, ADHD, and substance misuse. Among veterans, the presence of an anxiety disorder (umbrella term which included GAD, Phobias, PTSD etc.) was associated with increased interpersonal violence, alcohol misuse was associated with increased motoring offences, and substance use was associated with increased acquisitive offending.


This study indicates that among offenders in the CJS who have been identified as needing health or welfare support, veterans differ from non-veterans in terms of their health and welfare needs and offending behaviour. These differences may be influenced by the impact of military service and the transition into civilian life. The findings support the identification of military personnel within the CJS to provide appropriate interventions and support to improve outcomes and reduce offending.


Short, R., Dickson, H., Greenberg, N. & Macmanus, D. (2018) Offending behaviour, health and wellbeing of military veterans in the criminal justice system. PLoS One. 13(11):e0207282. November 2018. Available from: [Accessed: 16 November, 2018].


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