- Video report by ITV News Senior Correspondent Paul Davies
The widow of an army veteran who took his own life after battling with severe PTSD is set to launch a landmark legal case against the Ministry of Defence, the NHS and police for their alleged failings in preventing his death.
Jo Jukes' husband Lance Corporal Dave Jukes, 49, took his life in October last year after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute depression after serving in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan during his 25-year career.
Speaking exclusively to ITV News, Mrs Jukes said she is set to bring her case against the MOD - which is the first of its kind in the UK - to help protect other veterans and families from enduring the same suffering.
Mrs Jukes' lawyers believe she has a very strong chance of winning her unprecedented case.
Mrs Jukes also wants to make sure The Armed Forces Covenant, which provides guidelines for making sure members of the armed forces are treated fairly, is enforced in law.
A veterans organisation has told ITV News an estimated 27 military personnel - both serving and veterans - have taken their lives this year, with an estimated 82 in 2018.
Mrs Jukes revealed she pleaded with West Midlands Police for help to put her husband in a secure mental health unit in the months before his death.
She said: "I feel quite passionate about this. I have to do this in Dave’s honour, to make a difference to the surviving veterans and the care that they receive. I know that the things that aren’t happening to lots of families, things that weren’t in place that need to be in place.
"Nobody holds them to account and unless they are nothing will change. We get a lot of words and policies that aren’t implemented properly and pathways that aren’t implemented on the ground. In order for them to be implemented someone needs to stand up and say this is wrong."
Mrs Jukes said she has received support from former veterans for her campaign, and blamed the lack of co-ordination between authorities for their inability to help her husband.
She added that prior to his death, Mr Jukes's mental health had deteriorated to such an extent he smashed the family home and was given a court order banning him from the home.
Despite this, Mrs Jukes claims she still did not receive adequate help from the authorities.
She said: "Nobody communicated with each other. The police didn’t communicate with mental health, who didn’t communicate with GP and because that didn’t happen the full picture of Dave’s mental health was not apparent to anybody."
When asked why she is doing this, Jo tells us definitively: “To stand up and make sure this doesn’t happen again... Unless you make a stand, make people accountable, nothing will ever change. Not for personal gratification, it’s to help veterans now.”
Mrs Jukes is also determined that The Armed Forces Covenant, guidelines for making sure members of the armed forces are treated fairly, are enforced in law.
The Covenant currently makes pledges about providing help access to healthcare, among other promises, but none are legally binding.
Ms Jukes said: “Its no good just as a piece of paper. It has to be enforced.”
- ITV News Senior Correspondent Paul Davies provides an analysis of this legal challenge which is believed to be an unprecedented case
Jo’s solicitor, Sinead Cartwright, Director of specialist military law firm Hilary Meredith Solicitor said: “As far as we are aware this is the first time the widow of a war veteran suffering from PTSD and who died from suicide is considering legal action.
“This will be a landmark case.
“We believe Mrs Jukes has a very strong case. Her husband need not have died and there are very serious questions to answer by number of different agencies including the NHS trust, the police and the MoD."
She added: “Like so many veterans, he was left feeling abandoned. Much more needs to be done to heal the invisible wounds of war."
ITV News has approached West Midlands Police and the NHS for comment.
An MOD spokesman said “Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Lance Corporal Jukes, and we are committed to supporting serving and ex-service personnel who may struggle with their mental health.
“Every part of England has a dedicated mental health service for veterans, and the MOD, NHS and other government agencies are working closely together to make sure no one is disadvantaged by their service.”
- What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.
Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt.
They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult.
PTSD can develop immediately after someone experiences a disturbing event or it can occur weeks, months or even years later.
PTSD is estimated to affect about one in every three people who have a traumatic experience, but it's not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others don't.
Veterans United Against Suicide have been trying to keep a tally of veteran suicides and are campaigning for an official count.
What to do if you or someone you know needs help:
- If you are in distress or need some support, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 116 123 or through their website.Veterans' mental health charity
- Combat Stress is available 24 hours a day on 0800 138 1619 for veterans and their families, 0800 323 444 for serving personnel and their families, via text on 07537 404719, or through their website.Veterans' charity
- SSAFA is available on 0800 731 4880 or through their website.
- The Government's Veterans' Gateway offers advice and help for veterans seeking support and can be contacted on 0800 802 1212 or through the website.
- Mind offers a helpline on 0300 123 3393 from 9am to 6pm.