In November 2022 I had the privilege of representing the family of Alan Forcer at his Inquest alongside Counsel Lilian Lewis from Garden Court North.
Alan, a military veteran with Complex PTSD, had hanged himself on 21 May 2020. During the course of the inquest, the Coroner heard evidence from witnesses from Cleveland Police, Combat Stress and a Psychiatric Nurse from the Veteran’s Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS) in relation to Alan’s mental health care at the end of 2019, early 2020.
In addition to concerns regarding the mental health care, another important area that was explored by us was in relation to the approach by the police to Alan being reported as a missing person.
During the course of our preparation for this inquest it became evident to ourselves and Alan’s family, specifically his ex-wife Claire Lily and his son Joshua Forcer, that there was something currently missing from the police’s approach to finding veterans who are reported as missing.
During our research we noted that there was a specific protocol for missing persons reported who suffer from Dementia (The Herbert Protocol) which is a simple risk reduction tool to be used in the event of an adult with care and support needs going missing. It consists of a form that contains vital information about a person at risk that can be passed to the police at the point the person is reported missing.
At the Inquest we explored with the police whether something similar to the Herbert Protocol might be useful in a case where a veteran is reported as missing where a form could be accessed containing key information about that person in terms of any known risks about their mental health state, areas they may visit, suicide/self harm risk and so forth. Cleveland Police agreed that this may be a useful tool to have and so the “Forcer Protocol” was born.
Following the conclusion of the Inquest Claire has worked tirelessly over the past 11 months to turn an area of questioning at the Inquest into a working protocol for the police to use when a veteran, military personnel or reservist is reported as a missing person.
So, one year later on Remembrance Day, Greater Manchester Police will be piloting the new Forcer Protocol.
The online forms will hold key physical as well as mental health information which either the person themselves or family members, support workers/agencies working with that person, with consent, can complete. The information may include that persons NHS Number, phone service prover, car registration/make/model, key information about their suicidal plans if previously expressed including any locations that they may have previously considered to act upon their plan. The form will have a unique access code that is given to allocated officers within the force. The form has been created with the assistance of Safe and Found online.
In addition to the forms themselves, the work that Claire has being doing around the Protocol has also led to raising awareness of the fragmented nature of the veterans welfare landscape with very little joined up approach of the services that are on offer out there. Claire continues to raise awareness therefore to police forces about referrals that can be made if that missing person is then located including to the many wonderful and dedicated charities in addition to Op Courage, Op Fortitude, Op Nove, Op Restore and VTILS (Veterans Transition Liaison Service)
The “Call for Action” Conference will take place at the Houses of Parliament hosted by the Rt Hon Mark Francois MP, Former Armed forces Minister on Thursday 9 November 2023 and I am delighted to be invited to attend the event with Claire and her family and look forward to hearing more about what Claire has already achieved and her plans to make services for mental health and welfare more accessible to veterans.