I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to have been the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire for the last year. It has given me an insight into the amazing and positive work that is done by so many people in this county and I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many incredible organisations and inspiring individuals. My themes have been Modern Slavery and Youth Volunteering and I have enjoyed focusing on these, in various ways throughout the year.
It would be almost impossible to pick out my highlights - each and every experience has been rewarding and memorable. However there are a few ‘extra’ special events to mention.
Firstly, thank you to all those who attended the High Sheriff’s Charity Concert ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ at St Albans Cathedral last May. Performed by the fantastically talented students from Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, it was an outstandingly professional performance and particularly special given it was the 50th year since Joseph was first performed.
My Justice Service in November was a very memorable occasion, again in St Albans Cathedral, and a wonderful opportunity to gather together all those who work in the field of law and order to thank them for the excellent work they do across the county. The theme of the service was Modern Slavery and it was humbling to see it reflected in the music, readings and prayers. It was particularly exciting to process to and from the Cathedral from the St Albans Museum + Gallery. Seeing quite so many Judges, not to mention the Lord Lieutenant and Chief Constable dressed in their finery, walking through the streets of St Albans, amongst a selection of fairground rides in aid of the Christmas Lights Switch on, was quite a sight!
Finally the recent High Sheriff Awards were particularly special for me. The focus of the Awards was young people and organisations who do so much to help young people avoid contact with the criminal justice system. We were lucky enough to receive a large number of excellent applications and it was an extremely difficult job to narrow these down to the final winners. However all of the winners provided an opportunity for people to improve their confidence and feelings of self-belief and I believe that this is a vital step towards leading a valuable life that contributes something back into society. During my year in office, I have visited HMP The Mount, our only prison in Hertfordshire and the Crown Court, Family and Magistrates Courts and I have noticed that many young people do not have the opportunities to get an education, employment and housing which are the minimal requirements that should be available to everyone in a country such as Great Britain. It is too easy to get entangled in the criminal justice system and once there, it is very hard to escape from it. Prevention must be better than a cure. Organisations that give support to people who might be drifting in the wrong direction are therefore a vital back up when parenting and schooling let young people down. I was so impressed with the way that the groups that I chose for my awards have helped so many people to take control of their own lives.
The rest of the year has been a whirlwind of visits to those in the field of law and order as well as voluntary organisations. I’ve been extremely well looked after by the various Mayors and Chairs across the county, who have all given me a wonderful insight into their respective boroughs and districts with some very enlightening tours - meeting and holding a snake, with the Mayor of Broxbourne, was one of the highlights! I have also been privileged to participate in a number of royal visits, award ceremonies, host the High Sheriff’s Law Lecture, expertly delivered by James Palmer from Herbert Smith Freehills, and attend the National Crimbeat Awards with two fantastic finalists from Hertfordshire. It is a number of years since Hertfordshire had any representation in the finals so to have two teams was a real achievement. Both the students from Oaklands College and the East Herts Volunteer Police Cadets won prestigious awards which were very well deserved. You can read more about the Awards and the finalists here.
Thank you to all who have supported me this year - it is hugely appreciated and you have all helped create a year I will never forget. I intend to continue with my interests in the field of modern slavery and hope to work with schools to help raise awareness of this very important issue going forwards.
As of 6th April 2019, Sarah Beazley will assume the role of High Sheriff and I wish her the very best of luck for her year ahead.