Today The Sun became the latest national newspaper to highlight the need for a Stolen Valour Act as the scale of the ‘Walter Mitty’ problem among men falsely claiming military service, acts of valour or conflict-related PTSD unfolds.
Wg Cdr Dr Hugh Milroy, CEO of the 84-year-old charity Veterans Aid, has long been an advocate of a UK Stolen Valour Act. He wants the Government to consider a UK equivalent to America’s Stolen Valor Act, and similar laws in Australia and Canada, under which it is a crime to make false claims about military decorations.
The frontline charity he heads up checks all propsective clients’ credentials and has first hand knowledge of how widely fantasy is used to excuse or explain failings, gain public sympathy and feed vanity
In the UK, pretending to have served in the armed forces is only illegal if the person doing so stands to make financial gain, for which they can be pursued for fraud. But prosecutions for such offences are rare.
Dr Milroy said: “This is a really important issue and we mustn’t let the military become an object of derision or mistrust in British society because they are part of society. In the end this behaviour, if unstopped, will end up putting the defence of the nation at risk.
“If we have a system where politicians think this is nothing more than a joke then they are colluding in this. It’s not a joke. It offends. People are really angry about it.
“The fact is that these people can do and say what they like with virtual impunity. We had a guy yesterday, here at Veterans Aid, who had done three evenings with the TA and declared he had PTSD.”
It’s not just a question of Stolen Valour but also Stolen Trauma. This latter leads to NHS and charity resources being wasted on people pretending to be mentally ill; it leaves Social Services unable to do their job properly without knowing which clients are genuine and which were not.
Dr Milroy believes that even those within the Criminal Justice System – the police, courts and prisons – do not know if indivduals are claiming military trauma and PTSD to get lighter treatment.
He said: “We are working with a major British prison and of the 45 people who have come forward since Veterans Aid came on board to verify their military service, nearly half were found never to have served.
“We can cite lots of cases. We’ve got a guy who must have been in prison the best part of 100 times and he tells them every time that he has ‘served for 10 years , fought undercover in the Lebanon, and got PTSD’. The reality is that he spent just three weeks in the Royal Marines.”
See The Sun article HERE.