The trustee of an ex-military charity supporting those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder says veterans deserve our help, not imprisonment.
His views follow the trial of Marc McLees, who was sentenced to two years after a stand-off with armed police for five hours at his home in Bridge Street, Leighton Buzzard, on February 5.
Jim Woolley, who runs a PTSD Resolution hub at The Hare Inn, Linslade, first treated McLees two years ago after the former soldier’s marriage broke down and he became homeless.
Mr Woolley spoke of his regret in court at not having the ability to help McLees during his darkest hour.
Speaking to the LBO, Mr Woolley said: “Marc approached us back in December and unfortunately, because of the numbers we are dealing with, funding is very tight. The Christmas period is a big time for depression and PTSD to rise so during that time we were particularly busy, but Marc did ask for help and we agreed we could give it to him in the new year.
“It is always a kick in the teeth when someone slips through the net.
“I can’t help but think if we had been able to do something then, we might have prevented what happened. He had just been turned down from another job and with the frustation of that, combined with the alcohol, he called his sister and told her he had had enough.
“He was crying out for help and didn’t know what to do. Once he was in that zone, he felt threatened and as far as he was concerned he was back in Iraq. He can’t remember a lot about what happened that night and as everyone keeps saying it was completely out of character. The sentence has not done Marc any favours. We were quite shocked and disappointed by the outcome.
“After 18 years in the service, putting him in prison is just institutionalising him more. The sentence itself is not long enough to punish him, it has just delayed the help he needs.
“I don’t think the judge realised that the support is not there normally.”
Jim has already invested £2,500 of his own money in paying for bed and breakfasts for veterans in the area.
He is now setting up a trust called Basic that will act as an information centre for veterans and their families to help the transition into normal life.
“The biggest thing is a set of ears and a set of shoulders – people who are willing to listen and understand. We have plenty of psychatrists in this country who can listen, but finding people to understand is hard.
“We are going to empower them to be civilians and pick them up from homelessness when they need help the most. It is about changing the persona. It’s going to be a huge success. The support for Marc has been phenonemal. Leighton Buzzard should be proud itself.”