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Liz Truss to launch recruitment drive for former soldiers to become prison officers

PUBLISHED: 14:30 04 October 2016 | UPDATED: 14:30 04 October 2016

Liz Truss Secretary of State for Justice speaks at the Conservative Party Conference. Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Liz Truss Secretary of State for Justice speaks at the Conservative Party Conference. Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Former soldiers will be encouraged to become prison officers as part of a Government drive to improve the UK's justice system, Liz Truss has announced.

The Justice Secretary and South West Norfolk MP said ex-armed forces personnel will help “lead the change” in prisons as she vowed to boost staff numbers and crackdown on the abuse they face.

Addressing the Conservative conference in Birmingham, she said: “This country is fortunate that we can draw on another disciplined and courageous group: Our armed forces.

“Today I can announce a new Ministry of Justice programme to increase the number of former armed services personnel becoming prison officers.

“Who better to instill the virtues of discipline? Who better to show what you can achieve in life with courage and integrity?

“They will help our prison officers lead the change.”

The Justice Secretary also moved to respond to claims that prison officers are “stretched too thin”.

“I can announce today that we will be giving more staff more time to directly supervise offenders,” she said.

“This one-to-one support, which will be rolled out to every prison, is vital to bringing down levels of violence and reforming offenders.”

She said the Government would invest £14 million to provide more than 400 extra staff in prisons that have seen a spike in violence in recent years.

Ms Truss pledged to make prisons “places of safety” with a crackdown on the abuse faced by staff.

“All too often they suffer abuse, intimidation and violence, fuelled by the rise in dangerous new psychoactive substances,” she said.

“In the last year there were 5,423 attacks on prison officers. That’s almost 15 every day.

“So I say to prison staff: You do a vital job - keeping our streets safe, supporting and reforming offenders.

“And I promise you this - I will do everything in my power to protect you.”

Ms Truss also took aim at the apparent lack of diversity within the justice system as she promised to make it more representative of the nation.

She said: “The Supreme Court is a vital part of our constitution and I cherish its independence.

“But can it be right that out of 12 judges in the Supreme Court only one is a woman and not a single one is from an ethnic minority? This would be difficult to justify in a boardroom or around the cabinet table.

“So we will be working to break down barriers, to make sure people from all backgrounds can rise through the profession and that merit wins out.”

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