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  1. ITV Report

Help for Army veterans who get on the wrong side of the law

by Helen Ford

Kevin Clark looks back at his time in the army Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Looking at photographs from his days in the army, Kevin Clark tells me he can feel proud of his past. That hasn't always been the case.

Kevin joined the army at the age of sixteen, serving in Cyprus, Bosnia and Iraq. He left the forces in 2004 but struggled to return to civilian life. He and his family faced homelessness for a time and Kevin had a succession of jobs. At the root of his struggle to adapt: post traumatic stress disorder triggered by his experiences in Iraq.

Kevin Clark spent 16 years in the army Credit: Kevin Clark

Last year, Kevin's difficulties culminated in his arrest for a minor offence. In custody, he was offered assistance through a scheme called Project Nova. Run by two military charities, it is supported by Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland police forces. In the North East, its team members are all ex-veterans, who put clients in touch with a network of support, depending of their needs.

Kevin Clark has received help for his PTSD and has recently taken part in work experience with the NHS. He is now hoping to become a health care assistant.

The project is a collaboration between two military charities Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Hundreds of North East veterans find themselves in custody every year, many are arrested for relatively minor offences.

So what is the key to Project Nova's Work? Its North East co-ordinator told me they intervene at a pivotal moment in a person's life.

We get veterans when they're at their lowest point in their life and I think it's a bit of a wake up call sometimes that they really need support. They're not coping on their own. We're trying to make it a positive thing and it has been a positive thing in so many cases.

– Shelley Hamilton-Smith, Project Nova

The scheme was introduced to the Northumbria police force area in June 2015, with Durham and Cleveland joining at the start of this year. Northumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird says veterans face specific issues: they can be traumatised as a result of their experiences, and often find it difficult to ask for help, as they are used to coping on their own.

It often is something that's just gone wrong and is often just chaos rather than bad behaviour. We've always got to remember that there may be a victim involved so I am not saying they won't be prosecuted if something has happened but if we can nip in the bud something that's in transition, with Project Nova on hand as they are to help, then let's do it.

– Vera Baird, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner

One challenge is encouraging more veterans to take up the help on offer. Between September 2015 and March 2016, of almost 500 ex-forces personnel arrested by Northumbria police, only seventy seven asked to be referred to Project Nova.

At his home on Wearside, Kevin Clark says the support he has received has been twofold: helping him to come to terms with his past and look ahead to the future.

Watch my full report here:

For more information on Project Nova click here