Greater London News 2016/2017

April 2017

April 7 2017 – Signing off
My Shrieval year has come to an end and James Furber will be sworn in on Monday. I know he is looking forward to his year in office with great enthusiasm.

It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as High Sheriff of Greater London this past year. I have met so many impressive and exceptional people and attended a variety of interesting events. The Services at Westminster Abbey have been very special – some celebratory and some sobering. All of them perfectly executed and befitting. It has been a pleasure meeting so many of the Judiciary. The meetings I have had with Governors and staff at the County’s prisons, Senior Officers within the Metropolitan Police and those working for some amazing Charities have shown me how many dedicated and hardworking people there are working across the County and often behind the scenes.

The High Sheriff Awards Ceremonies in October and March were a real highlight this year. It was again a privilege to meet members of the public who had taken brave steps to come to the aid of victims of crime and assist with the subsequent judicial process. The Award recipients were, without exception, brave and very much deserving of their recognition.

My theme for the year – the rehabilitation of young offenders – has led me to have some very interesting and I hope useful conversations and one or two initiatives are underway which I shall continue to support in the future. I am certainly hopeful that some of my efforts will enable more young offenders to find employment.

My thanks go to everybody who has contributed to making this year as High Sheriff such a memorable one. My particular thanks go to Lynn Johansen, the Under Sheriff, whose assistance and guidance has been invaluable. Happily, Lynn remains in office and will give James the benefit of her continued guidance and wisdom.

I would like to thank Dame Martina Milburn and The Prince’s Trust for supporting my theme for the year.

My wife, Sally, has been an incredible support, as has my successor as CEO at DLA Piper, Simon Levine, and Amanda Bibbey and Nicola Davey. My thanks go to them also.

I wish James every success in his Shrieval year. I am sure he will do a good job and enjoy his time as much as I have.

Sir Nigel Knowles 

April 5 2017
On Wednesday, 5 April 2017 the High Sheriff attended “A Service of Hope’ at Westminster Abbey following the Terror Attack in Westminster on 22 March.

It was a very moving ceremony attended by Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales. The ceremony was attended by many of the families of those who were killed and several of the survivors.

The Right Honourable Amber Rudd MP, Home Secretary, read the first reading and His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge read the second reading. The Address was given by The Very Reverend Dr John Hall.

Thanks were given, and prayers were said for the vigilance and dedication of the Police and Security Services for the work they do keeping our communities safe from terror and random violence, and prayers were said for the communities of the United Kingdom. Two very moving Hymns were sung: ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ and ‘Now thank we all our God’.

March 2017

March 9 2017
On 9 March the High Sheriff met Thomas Lawson, CEO, and Ben Kernighan, Deputy CEO, of LEAP. LEAP is an award-winning national youth charity that provides inspirational conflict management training and support to young people and the professionals working with them.

March 8  2017
On 8 March the High Sheriff hosted “An Evening with Senator George Mitchell” at Plaisterers’ Hall, London, EC2. This was to mark the end of Sir Nigel’s year-long tenure as High Sheriff of Greater London which runs from 22 April 2016 to 10 April 2017.

Senator Mitchell is a partner and Chairman Emeritus of DLA Piper. George Mitchell served as US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace from January 2009 to May 2011. In 1995, he served as a Special Advisor to President William J. Clinton on Ireland, and from 1996 to 2000 he served as the Independent Chairman of the Northern Ireland Peace Talks. Under his leadership, the Good Friday Agreement, an historic accord ending decades of conflict, was agreed to by the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom and the political parties of Northern Ireland. Prior to that he had a distinguished career in public service. He was appointed to the United States Senate in 1980 to complete the unexpired term of Senator Edmund S. Muskie, who resigned to become Secretary of State. He was elected to a full term in the Senate in 1982 in a stunning come-from-behind victory. After trailing in public opinion polls by 36 points, Senator Mitchell rallied to win the election, receiving 61 percent of the votes cast. Senator Mitchell went on to an illustrious career in the Senate spanning 15 years. His biography is extensive:

Senator Mitchell gave a fascinating speech covering a range of global issues, taking plenty of time for questions from the audience. Guests included Resident Judges from London’s Crown Courts, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Metropolitan Police Commissioner), prison reform charities, representatives from the Prince’s Trust including four young ambassadors, prison governors, the deputy Lord Lieutenant, DLA Piper partners and clients, and other officials with whom Sir Nigel has been in contact during his year as High Sheriff.

During the evening Sir Nigel talked about his time as High Sheriff of Greater London, thanking DLA Piper for its support during his tenure. Senator Mitchell and Sir Nigel then joined guests at the reception which followed.

Every High Sheriff has a theme for their year and Sir Nigel’s theme, supported by The Prince’s Trust, is “Increasing opportunities for young offenders and disadvantaged young people.” Three priorities laid out for the year were to understand the circumstances of young offenders, challenge perceptions and stereotypes of young offenders, and create more opportunities for them.

Sir Nigel intends to continue working in this area when his term as High Sheriff comes to an end in April through his involvement with the Prince’s Trust.

March 2 2017
On 2 March, The High Sheriff, Lady Knowles and The Under Sheriff visited HMP Wormwood Scrubs.

Given The High Sheriff’s particular interest in the rehabilitation of offenders, they were shown around the facility by Angela Wiseman, the Learning and Skills Manager.

HMP Wormwood Scrubs is a Victorian built Category B prison housing up to 1,279 adult males. 49% of those at the facility were on remand and awaiting trial. A large number of those who had already been convicted were at HMP Wormwood Scrubs waiting to go to other prisons outside of London to serve their sentences. The High Sheriff and his party were surprised to learn that the average stay at HMP Wormwood Scrubs for any prisoner is between 6-8 weeks. In fact, most of the prisons in London are prisons serving the Courts and it is not usual for long sentences to be served at any of them, although there are of course exceptions.

Angela Wiseman gave The High Sheriff and his party a full tour of the facility which included visiting the on site Church and the Education Wing. Despite the relatively short periods of time spent at HMP Wormwood Scrubs by offenders, there was a still a huge commitment to offering inmates education and skills development opportunities, rehabilitation being the ultimate aim. The party also met Nicky Sutton, the Education Manager. Novus is an independent contractor at the prison. Novus is an organisation that delivers education, training and employment to adults and young people in UK prisons. It has a reputation as an innovator in the fight to reduce reoffending rates by transforming people’s lives through learning and skills. Inmates at HMP Wormwood Scrubs are able to study and take exams if appropriate, learn a skill such as barber skills, painting and decorating skills and so on. Angela Wiseman commented, “prison is not a place of punishment, loss of liberty is the punishment”. Her commitment to rehabilitation was evident.

The High Sheriff asked Angela Wiseman about the percentage of young offenders in the facility. 42% of those at HMP Wormwood Scrubs were 29 years old or younger. A huge proportion of those were in prison as a result of gang membership and gang related crime.

March 1 2017
The second High Sheriff Award Ceremony of the Shrieval year took place at Blackfriars Crown Court on Wednesday 1 March.

Again it was a privilege and an honour for the High Sheriff to present Awards to members of the public who had each shown extreme courage and selflessness in the face of criminal activity. The recipient of such an Award is nominated, in each case, by a Crown Court Judge. The Judge in question will have made the nomination having been impressed with the courage and actions of the individual both in relation to events at the time of the crime and, later, as a witness.

The Award Ceremony was attended by The Honourable Mrs Justice McGowan DBE, Justice of the High Court, and a large number of the Resident Judges of the Crown Courts of Greater London. Also in attendance were Wing Commander Mike Dudgeon, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, and the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Richard Martin.

The Ceremony started with a welcome by His Honour Judge Hillen, the Resident Judge of Blackfriars Crown Court. After that, the High Sheriff gave a brief history of the office of High Sheriff and explained the importance to him of the High Sheriff Award Ceremony.

The Under Sheriff, Lynn Johansen, read out a citation in respect of each Award recipient before each Award was presented. The citations detailed the courageous actions taken by the Award Recipients all of whom took brave steps in the face of a violent crime to assist a victim and/or help with the prosecution of the perpetrator.

Once all the Awards had been presented, Judge Hillen concluded by reiterating how much the actions of the Award recipients were commended by everyone at the ceremony. A reception followed where the High Sheriff was able to chat to the Award recipients. It was a happy and uplifting occasion.

The High Sheriff of Greater London, Sir Nigel Knowles, and The Honourable Mrs Justice McGowan DBE, Justice of the High Court, with award recipient.

February 2017

February 14 2017
On 14 February, 2017 the High Sheriff was delighted to meet the Senior Coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, and spend the morning with her sitting in Westminster Coroner’s Court.

The Westminster Coroner’s Court is located at 65 Horseferry Road, London, SW1, and was built in 1893 upon land given by the Duke of Westminster. The building, which has had only slight modifications, contains a very impressive mahogany panelled courtroom, and a domed glass ceiling.

Westminster Coroner’s Court is the only court which has a special seat reserved for the High Sheriff!

The Coroner is responsible for investigating unexplained and sudden deaths and carries out inquests, and in the case of Westminster, this can be around 3,000 deaths per year.

The High Sheriff was extremely interested in the work of the Senior Coroner, and was privileged to sit next to the Senior Coroner during the morning session. He also had an opportunity to meet the Coroner’s team and support staff and enjoyed the opportunity to gain an insight into the complexities of a Coroner’s role and inquests.

The High Sheriff was enormously impressed with every aspect of his visit.

February 9 2017
On 9 February the High Sheriff attended the Winter Reception hosted by the Judges of Snaresbrook Crown Court. The reception was held in the Costume Gallery in the Royal Courts of Justice and Sir Nigel was invited by HHJ David Radford.

February 1 2017
On 1 February the High Sheriff attended a lunch organised by the School of Hard Knocks. School of Hard Knocks is a social inclusion charity that uses rugby, boxing and mentoring to help young people improve their self-confidence and employability.

January 2017

January 18 2016
On 18 January the High Sheriff met with Clive Conway, Chair of the Trustees, and Joseph Duncan, a special advisor to the trustees on youth work and project leadership, of the Tutu Foundation.

The Tutu Foundation UK was founded in 2007 by the Very Reverend Colin Slee, the late Dean of Southwark Cathedral, and Edith Slee, with the support of their close friends Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mrs Leah Tutu. It is built on the inspiration and knowledge of South African communities who sought reconciliation rather than revenge following the overthrow of Apartheid, through the southern African concept of Ubuntu. The Tutu foundation UK was set up to use and promote this idea in the UK. Particularly with young people involved in gang violence. The foundation works with regional police forces, significant national institutions, corporates, in Northern Ireland helping to support the on-going peace process as well as local community and youth groups around the country.

November 2016

November 30 2016
On 30 November, the High Sheriff and his wife visited HM YOI Feltham.

Feltham “A” side holds young people aged between 15 and 17 years and “B” side holds sentenced young adults aged between 18 and 21 years. The site occupies 94 acres. The original Feltham was built in 1854 as an Industrial School and was taken over in 1910 by the Prison Commissioners as their second Borstal Institution. The current HM Prison and Young Offender Institution Feltham was formed by the amalgamation of Ashford Remand Centre and Feltham Borstal in 1990/1991.

The High Sheriff and his wife met with The Governor, Glenn Knight and had a very interesting and broad ranging discussion. The rehabilitation of young offenders was obviously a key topic, given the High Sheriff’s theme for the year. Discussion was had about the desire to see more large employers give opportunities to rehabilitated young offenders.

The issue of the boys’ schooling and education was also discussed. The young men of school age are required to continue their education at Feltham. The Youth Justice Board’s requirement is 27 hours of lessons and 3 hours of sport per week. Several of the young men at Feltham are taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.

A full tour of the facility was given, which gave the High Sheriff and his wife the opportunity to meet a number of the staff and prison officers. Once again, both the High Sheriff and his wife were struck by the commitment and positivity of everyone they met. Everybody wanted to see the young men at Feltham turn their lives around. Obviously there are funding issues and challenges – these face all HM Institutions – but those working at Feltham were dedicated to making a difference to these young men’s lives if they could.

The Governor was a very impressive person and one or two possible initiatives were discussed which the High Sheriff will follow up.

November 24 2016
Service of Thanksgiving to Celebrate the Diamond Anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award

On Thursday 24 November, the High Sheriff and his wife attended a Service of Thanksgiving to Celebrate the Diamond Anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh’s (D of E) Award at Westminster Abbey. The service was attended by Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and Their Royal Highnesses The Earl and Countess of Wessex.

The service was an uplifting one with a real air of celebration of just how the D of E Award scheme has impacted so positively on so many people’s lives over the 60 years since its inception. HRH the Duke of Edinburgh first considered the idea of a national programme to support young people’s development at the request of his inspiring former headmaster, Kurt Hahn, who thought that each of us has more courage, more strength and more compassion than we would ever have believed. In 1956, the D of E Award scheme was born. It was originally set up to give young men leaving education the opportunity to develop further. In 1959, a girls programme was launched. Since that moment the D of E scheme has been open to all young people from every walk of life.

Young offenders are doing their D of E as part of their rehabilitation. Mental health patients are doing their D of E as part of their treatment and recovery. Disabled young people are doing their D of E alongside their non-disabled peers. Teenage mums are doing their D of E as a route back to education and creating a future for themselves and their children. You can now do your D of E through housing associations, youth groups, football and rugby clubs, open centres and, of course, schools, academies, colleges and universities in every community in the UK.

The Service of Thanksgiving began with the hymn “O Worship the King all glorious above”, following which came the Procession of The Queen. The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster led the service. Testimonials were given by 2 D of E Award holders – Hannah Cockroft MBE (Paralympic Gold Medallist) and Thomas Wainwright. Thomas Wainwright had completed his D of E Award whilst in prison and it was inspiring to hear how the programme had really helped him turn his life around by giving him some belief in himself.

The readings were taken from 1 Chronicles 16: 23-34 and Ephesians 1: 3-10. The Choir sang Psalm 8. 2 further hymns were sung: “Teach me, my God and King” and “Guide me, O thou great Redeemer”.

An address was given by His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex. He spoke warmly about his Father who he described as “the most humble person I have ever met” and praised him for all that he done for young people. He shared some amusing anecdotes about some of the people he had met through the D of E Award and talked also about how many inspiring people he had met through the scheme

Following prayers, the service concluded with the National Anthem.

November 13 2016 – Remembrance Service
On Sunday 13 November 2016, the High Sheriff, accompanied by his wife and children, attended the Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving on Remembrance Sunday at Westminster Abbey.

The service was conducted by The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster and sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey, conducted by James O’Donnell.

The Service was a very moving one. The Bidding began:
“We have come to remember before God those who have died for their country in the two world wars and the many conflicts of the years that have followed. Some we knew and loved: we treasure their memory still. Others are unknown to us: to their remembrance too we give our time this morning. With thanksgiving we recall services offered and sacrifices made”.

The hymns sung were: “Thy kingdom come, O God”, “Prayer for the Nation” and “The Light of the World”. The readings were taken from Psalm 46, Isaiah 65: 17, 19-22, 24-25 and Romans 8: 31-35, 37-end.

At 11.00am the two minute silence was observed. After the silence, the choir sang:

They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.”

This was followed by the last post. The gun salute to mark the end of the 2 minute silence could be heard inside the Abbey.

The service concluded with The National Anthem.

November 2 2016 – Visit to Harrow Crown Court
The High Sheriff, accompanied by the Under Sheriff, visited Harrow Crown Court on 2 November 2016 and met with the Resident Judge, His Honour Judge Arran. They discussed various matters relating to the court proceedings which the High Sheriff and Under Sheriff were to listen to during the visit and also the challenges faced by the court, not least the challenge posed by the lack of catering facilities, of which more later.

The High Sheriff and Under Sheriff then sat on the bench with Judge Arran and listened to the examination of the defendant in the case by the prosecution counsel, which led to some interesting exchanges between the counsel and judge and gave an insight into the challenges faced by the prosecution counsel in obtaining evidence from the Italian authorities on a bank holiday in Italy.

The customary warm welcome afforded to the High Sheriff in visiting Harrow Crown Court was evident throughout but in particular as regards lunch. Owing to the absence of any catering facilities at Harrow, His Honour Judge Barklem had kindly stepped into the breach producing an excellent lunch aided by a delicious pudding made by Mrs Arran, the wife of the Resident Judge. Apart from enjoying the culinary skills shown by Her Majesty’s judges it was a welcome opportunity to meet the judges sitting at Harrow and to discuss various matters affecting the criminal justice system.

In later discussion with the prosecution counsel the lack of catering was mentioned as a particular issue as there is only one small café nearby which means that counsel, the jury, witnesses and the defendants risk cannot be adequately catered for and risk encountering each other during a case, which is not ideal. It is anticipated that some catering facilities will be provided again at the court in the near future, which will be welcomed.

The High Sheriff and Under Sheriff had a very informative and enjoyable visit and much appreciated the time spent by Judge Arran and Judge Barkem and the strong team spirit in evidence at the court.

October 2016

October 11 2016
High Sheriff of Greater London Ceremony for the Presentation of Awards under the Criminal Law Act 1826

On 11 October, the High Sheriff attended at The United Kingdom Supreme Court to present awards under the Criminal Law Act 1826. An award ceremony is held twice a year to recognise citizens who have acted with courage and bravery to apprehend and/or report criminals and who may have subsequently served as witnesses in the criminal trials that follow. Nominations for these awards are made by the Crown Court Judges at the sentencing hearings in these trials. The awards are presented by the current High Sheriff each year.

Those presiding at the ceremony along with the High Sheriff were Lord Neuberger (President of the Supreme Court), The Rt Hon the Lady Hale (Deputy President of the Supreme Court) and Lord Hodge (Justice of the Supreme Court). The Representative Deputy Lieutenant for the City of Westminster and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police also attended and sat alongside the Supreme Court Justices.

23 members of the public had been nominated for an award. Those that were able to attend in person came with friends and members of their family. Many of the Crown Court Judges who had nominated individuals for awards attended also. The ceremony took place in courtroom 1.

Lord Neuberger welcomed everyone to the ceremony and praised all those receiving an award for their bravery, not only at the time when they witnessed a crime taking place and took steps to do something about it, but also for sticking with the criminal process and helping to secure a conviction. Lady Hale spoke of how much the Justices looked forward to these award ceremonies as it was always a pleasure to hear uplifting stories of true courage and bravery and recognise the good acts people do. Without people like those receiving the awards, the Criminal Justice system could not operate, she said. The High Sheriff spoke briefly about his role as High Sheriff and after these initial introductions, the presentation of the awards got underway.

Prior to the presentation of each award, Lynn Johansen (the Under Sheriff) read a citation describing the reasons why an award was being made in each case and the commendation made by the awarding judge. Those present heard about astonishing acts of bravery – all of those receiving the awards had intervened when they had found themselves witnessing a crime (a kidnap, a stabbing, a sexual assault were just some of the crimes witnessed). They intervened despite putting themselves in danger in many cases and they intervened when many may have turned the other cheek and walked away. They prevented victims from suffering more harm and they were subsequently prepared to testify as a witness to secure a conviction. Hearing the citation in each case was truly humbling.

After the presentation of the awards, the Representative Deputy Lieutenant for the City of Westminster spoke a few words on behalf of the citizens of London in praise of the extraordinary, public spirited acts of the award recipients. Sir Bernard Hogan Howe (the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police) also spoke a few words and thanked those receiving the awards on behalf of the police force. He told them that they were “exceptional people”.

A reception followed which gave the High Sheriff and all those attending the chance to informally meet and talk to the award recipients. It was a privilege to talk to them all. The whole occasion was very special and a served as a reminder that there are a lot of good people in this world who will act to protect others and do the right thing. All of those receiving an award should be very proud of themselves.

October 3 2016
Service for the Opening of the Legal Year

On 3 October, the High Sheriff attended a service at Westminster Abbey to mark the opening of the Legal Year.
The Service was attended by the Lord Chancellor, the Secretary of State for Justice, the Lord Chief Justice, the Justices of the Supreme Court and other Judges and Members of the Legal Profession and marked the first day of the Michaelmas Sittings.

It was a very impressive occasion. All the Judges, Officers and Members of the Legal Profession attended in robes. The Service was conducted by The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster. The Choir of Westminster Abbey sung during the service and were excellent. Readings were given by The Right Honourable Liz Truss MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Deuteronomy 6: 17-25) and The Right Honourable The Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (St Matthew 5: 17-20). The hymns sung by the congregation were: “Judge Eternal, Throned in Splendour”, The Pilgrim’s Hymn and “Guide Me, O thou Great Redeemer”. The Service concluded with The National Anthem.

Following the Service, there was a formal procession to the Palace of Westminster where a Reception was held.

September 2016

September 21 2016
On Wednesday, 21 September, the High Sheriff and the Under Sheriff visited Wood Green Crown Court.

The High Sheriff and the Under Sheriff were introduced to His Honour Judge Noel Lucas, and following an introduction to the other judges and recorders, they had lunch and also had the opportunity of meeting Clive Conway who runs the UK Foundation of Bishop Desmond Tutu.

The High Sheriff and Under Sheriff accompanied Judge Lucas to his courtroom and sat alongside him to observe the business of Judge Lucas’ court that morning.

The High Sheriff and Under Sheriff were also able to spend some time with Judge Lucas in his chambers and had a good opportunity to discuss many aspects of the Court, criminal justice system and the impact of our ever-changing environment.

It was also a good opportunity for the High Sheriff to give Judge Lucas an update on progress made in his Shrieval year in relation to the High Sheriff’s objective to find opportunities for employment for young offenders.

The High Sheriff and Under Sheriff found the occasion most enjoyable, informative and also thoroughly enjoyed their conversation with Clive Conway in relation to the work of the Tutu Foundation UK.

July 2016

July 18 2016
On 18 July the High Sheriff and Under Sheriff visited HMP Wandsworth and met the Governor, Amy Frost. They had a most informative discussion on the challenges faced in running the prison but also learnt of the positive opportunities for the prison presented by the reform programme championed by the last Minister for Justice, the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP.

HMP Wandsworth is one of 6 prisons which are early adopters, as from 1 July, of the reform programme which is designed to provide more autonomy to Prison Governors regarding how their budget is spent, in recruitment and the setting of policies designed with the specific needs of the prison. One of the goals is to improve rehabilitation of prisoners. Prisoners within HMP Wandsworth have reacted positively to this development and many written suggestions have been received from prisoners on how improvements could be made. This has been encouraging. However satisfying the expectations of prisoners for instant change is one of the challenges to be surmounted.

The level of staffing is also a significant issue for the prison which needs to be surmounted. Reports in the press on 20 July have highlighted the severe understaffing of prisons in the UK and rising violence and incidence of self-harming amongst prisoners and state that the impact that lack of staff could have on delivering the reform programme has been recognised by Government Ministers. It is hoped that the changes to recruitment arrangements may have a positive effect in this regard and that this will assist HMP Wandsworth, as an early adopter of the programme.

HMP Wandsworth faces the challenges of understaffing and accommodating the needs of prisoners in a Victorian prison designed to hold half the number it currently does. Prison life is clearly not an easy life. The prison also has to meet the challenges of dealing with the wide array of functions it has. It acts as a remand centre for young offenders and adult prisoners and has to accommodate a high throughput of people awaiting trial and attending court, but also has to serve the needs of long term prisoners, vulnerable prisoners who may be held in segregated units and those on short sentences. At any one time there will also be people detained awaiting the outcome of extradition or deportation proceedings. This presents complex challenges, not least the wide variety of languages to be accommodated.

The prison population in HMP Wandsworth is approximately 1600 men, one of the largest in the UK. There are in effect 2 prisons within the site. One of these is a category C prison which provides a wider array of education and training opportunities to prisoners who are preparing for release. The High Sheriff’s engagement with the issues surrounding rehabilitation of prisoners was discussed and an opportunity was afforded to meet Sarah Fitzgerald, the head of learning and development to discuss some exciting ideas as to how rehabilitation iniatives might be improved in prisons. They discussed the desirability of prisons being able to provide more education and training opportunities, with an emphasis of giving prisoners some experience of making choices, taking responsibility for their choices and a sense of the contribution they can make; thus raising self-esteem and fostering more engagement which could be beneficial for the rehabilitation of prisoners. The benefit of family links and the outside community being engaged in initiatives geared to the rehabilitation of prisoners , in order to provide a stronger foundation for prisoners when they are released to enable them to re-enter the community and the world of work, was also discussed. One interesting idea explored was whether it would be possible for prisons to provide courses in the evening to provide a greater sense of how life operates outside prison, whereby a person in work would attend an education programme or do an activity in the evening after work, so that life can be more normalised in prison.

The High Sheriff and Under Sheriff had an extensive tour of this prison, conducted by Robert Grimes who has been in the prison service for more than 2 decades and was able to add much information regarding prison life and the challenges faced by staff and prisoners. They were most impressed by his calm approach and the obvious dedication that he and other staff met during the tour have for their work. Those met included the Revd. Tim Bryan, who provided a very helpful insight into the work of the chaplaincy as well as the support provided by chaplains on a personal level to prisoners and Haroon Mazharit, who is engaged in the resettlement of prisoners who are due to be released. They also met instructors delivering training on the skills required in the construction industry, such as carpentry, tiling, bricklaying and erecting partitioning and prisoners undergoing such training, who expressed great satisfaction at having the opportunity to develop such skills and determination to get a job in the construction industry on release. They clearly saw this as a route into work and reclaiming their lives as a part of society.

The High Sheriff and Under Sheriff were most impressed by the enthusiasm and calm dedication of Amy Frost and all the staff met and were very appreciative of the opportunity to learn more as well as to be able to show support for all the hard work done by prison staff.

July 12 2016
The Southwark Legal Service

The High Sheriff and Under Sheriff were delighted to be invited by the Honorary Recorder of Southwark, His Honour Judge Roger Chapple, and the Dean of Southwark, the Very Reverend Andrew Nunn, to the 2016 Southwark Legal Service, a Choral Evensong attended by members of the Judiciary on Tuesday, 12 July at 5.30pm at Southwark Cathedral.

The 2016 Southwark Legal Service was the first of what is hoped to become an annual event in thanksgiving for the work of the legal profession in Southwark, which includes three very busy crown courts, Blackfriars, Inner London and Crown Court and Magistrates Courts, and is also home to many active solicitors’ practices.

There was a huge attendance. The congregation enjoyed a wonderful service with readings by Lord Justice Fulford and the Dean. The sermon was given by the Bishop of Southwark, the Right Revered Christopher Chessun.

After the service there was an opportunity for the congregation to meet together and chat with old friends and acquaintances, and to make new ones.

The High Sheriff and Under Sheriff very much enjoyed the occasion.

July 5 2016
Visit to Leap Confronting Conflict.

It was great to meet the charity Leap Confronting Conflict ( on Tuesday, 5 July.

For nearly 30 years Leap has been doing great work in prisons and the community, helping young people manage conflict more effectively.

Their programmes play a big role in reducing violent behaviour and preparing young people for education and employment. They run innovative programmes that involve training prison officers and prisoners together – helping to break down barriers and improve relationships.

I was encouraged to hear about how they are collaborating with other charities and their plans for new programmes to address gang violence in Lambeth and Southwark.

We talked about how important it is to support prisoners to develop their resilience to cope with the world outside prison – which helps reduce re-offending and makes society safer for all of us. Leap trains a variety of professionals who work with young people including teachers, youth workers and police officers.

Leap practices what it preaches in involving young people and it was great to meet young trustee Chantal Chang. Chantal became a young trainer with the benefit of Leap’s training and is now helping shape the future of the organisation as one of Leap’s three young trustees.

July 1 2016
On 1 July 2016, the British and French armies launched an offensive near the River Somme, in Picardy, France. This series of battles, lasting nearly 5 months, would become one of the bloodiest and most important campaigns of the First World War. An estimates 3.5 million men fought on both sides, and over 1 million were wounded, captured or killed. Precise statistics remain impossible to calculate. Many of the soldiers were mere boys.

The Service gave an opportunity to reflect on the battles of the Somme and their human cost. The Dean of Westminster gave the Bidding:

“This evening, we seek to recall the experience of those eating to go into battle. This whole night will be a time of vigil; a watch will be maintained at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, changing every quarter of an hour, and representing all the forces involved in the Battle. The watch will conclude at 7.30am when, a hundred years ago, whistles were blown to signal the moment of advance.

Tonight we shall remember the courage and sacrifice of those preparing to face their enemy, and we shall pray that we may continue to learn the lessons of history to build a world at peace.”

Prayers were led by The Reverend Christopher Stolz, The Reverend Professor Vernon White and The Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Her Majesty The Queen placed a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, following which the first Watch commenced at the Grave.

June 2016

June 30 2016
Service on the Eve of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

On Thursday 30 June 2016, the High Sheriff and Lady Knowles attended the above service in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.

June 27 2016
The High Sheriff visited Kingston Crown Court.

The High Sheriff was pleased to meet again His Honour Judge Lodder, and he accompanied Judge Lodder to his court room and sat alongside him to observe the business of Judge Lodder’s court that morning.

The High Sheriff was also able to spend some time with Judge Lodder in his chambers, and had a good opportunity to discuss many aspects of the Court, Criminal Justice System and the impact of new technologies.

Judge Lodder attended the High Sheriff’s inaugural reception on 6 June, which gave the High Sheriff an opportunity to discuss his plans for his Shrieval Year, namely “A Year for Young Offenders”.

After the morning session, the High Sheriff joined the Kingston Crown Court judges for a most enjoyable, wide-ranging discussion and lunch.

June 22 2016
Visit to Brixton Prison

On 22 June, The High Sheriff and Lady Knowles visited Brixton Prison. They were given a full tour of the facility by The Governor, Giles Mason.

Brixton prison is a rehabilitation prison with many inmates from other prisons being transferred there to serve out the end of their sentences.

There are lots of opportunities for the inmates to learn a trade at Brixton – scaffolding, painting and decorating, building work, catering, baking, barbering and horticulture. In addition there are opportunities to develop skills such as CV and letter writing (to assist with the process of gaining employment post release), literacy, numeracy and keeping fit. A number of ‘Category D’ prisoners there have the opportunity (thanks to local employers) to go out to work from prison, returning each night to their cells.

The High Sheriff and his wife visited The Clink (the onsite restaurant open to the public) and the Bad Boys Bakery, both staffed by inmates. They also visited the facility’s radio station which airs to many prisons nationally. The station (run by the Charity National Prison Radio) has an extensive and varied programme list, many of those programmes tackling issues relevant to rehabilitation and taking the next steps following release. A huge number of the inmates listen to and take support from the station.

The Governor, Mr Mason, was very impressive indeed and his desire to see all of his inmates recovered, reformed back into society and into employment after serving their sentence was clear. His energy and commitment to this was obvious.

There are a lot of good people and organisations working for or with Brixton prison; all trying their best to give the inmates there a second chance. A large number of the prisoners that the High Sheriff and his wife met genuinely seemed motivated and focused on living a crime free life upon release. That can only be a good thing.

Of course, one cannot ignore the loss of liberty a prison sentence brings. As one young offender (now rehabilitated) said to the High Sheriff recently – “prison is not the place you want to be”. During this visit, however, seeing and hearing about the huge efforts made by so many to help the rehabilitation process was actually a very positive experience. The High Sheriff and his wife very much appreciated the chance to visit.

June 16 2016
Visit to Southwark Crown Court

On 16 June, The High Sheriff and Lady Knowles paid a visit to Southwark Crown Court.

The High Sheriff and his wife were introduced to His Honour Judge McCreath, Hon Recorder of Westminster, and following this introduction, they accompanied him to his Courtroom. The High Sheriff sat alongside Judge McCreath on the Bench and watched the business of the Court that morning.

Following the morning session, the High Sheriff and his wife were able to spend some time with Judge McCreath in his private office. It was a great opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics pertinent to the criminal justice system and Southwark Crown Court in particular. Judge McCreath had attended the High Sheriff’s inaugural reception on 6 June and the visit provided the High Sheriff with a much appreciated opportunity to discuss his plans for the Shrieval year particularly in relation to the rehabilitation of young offenders.

The High Sheriff and his wife joined all the Southwark Crown Court Judges for lunch which was very enjoyable.

Southwark Crown Court is a very busy inner London Court, often trying high profile cases. Despite their extremely busy schedules, the Judges and all the staff at Southwark Crown Court made The High Sheriff and his wife feel very welcome. The staff were eager to show their visitors around and explain the workings of their Court. The pride that the staff and the Judges have in this Court was palpable and something that the High Sheriff and his wife very much took away from the visit.

Nigel Knowles with His Honour Judge McCreath, Hon Recorder of Westminster


June 9 2016
Glad Hymns of Praise Celebrating the 90th Birthday of Her Majesty The Queen.

On 9 June, Lady Knowles and Lynn Johansen, the Under Sheriff, attended a church service at St Luke’s Church, Chelsea as guests of the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Councillor Mrs Elizabeth Rutherford, to celebrate The Queen’s birthday. It was a joyful occasion, a true celebration, with music very much at the forefront of the proceedings. The choir sang beautifully. The hymns sung by the congregation were all carefully selected:-

All People That on Earth Do Dwell (sung at the Coronation of Her Majesty The Queen)
Praise My Soul the King of Heaven (sung at the wedding of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh)
O Praise Ye The Lord (sung at The Queen’s Silver Jubilee Service)
Who Would True Valour See (Sung at The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Service)
Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer (Sung at The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Service)

The Royal Borough’s Civic Service was conducted in the presence of their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. A reception followed at Chelsea Town Hall.

June 6 2016
The High Sheriff of Greater London’s Inaugural Reception at The Prince’s Trust, London.

Sir Nigel Knowles held his inaugural drinks reception at The Prince’s Trust, where the guests included members of the police service, high court judges, and prison governors. In his speech, delivered at the reception, Nigel announced that he will be promoting the case for more opportunities for young offenders during his one-year tenure, setting out three priorities for the year ahead:

· Understanding the circumstances of young offenders
· Challenging perceptions and stereotypes of young offenders
· Creating more opportunities for young offenders

Nigel will draw on his experience at The Prince’s Trust, where he is a Trustee, to fulfil these three priorities. He reminded the audience of the work done by the youth charity to help young offenders have a second chance in life. Last year alone, The Trust supported 58,000 young people of which around 8,000 were offenders or ex-offenders, with some joining programmes while still inside prison and some joining upon being released.

Nigel said: “Creating opportunities for offenders and ex-offenders is a vital challenge to prevent reoffending and making our country and in particular London a safer place. I wanted to make this inaugural speech – my pledge to the people of London – at The Prince’s Trust because this is where I have seen so many young people turn their lives around after serving their term. As High Sheriff I want to use this experience for the benefit of the people of London whom I am honoured to serve.”

Martina Milburn, chief executive of The Prince’s Trust said: “Sir Nigel has made an extremely positive contribution to The Prince’s Trust since coming on board as a Trustee in September 2014. All our Trustees are extremely involved in the work of the charity. They have a deep concern for young people and the way in which we are moving forward to reach out to more of them. Sir Nigel is certainly a man of vision and resolve. I feel very confident that he will be a force for good in his new role.”

To read Nigel’s full speech click here.

Sir Nigel and Lady Knowles

May 24 2016
Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the foundation of Whitelands College, University of Roehampton, Westminster Abbey

On Tuesday, 24th May 2016 at Noon, the High Sheriff attended the above service at Westminster Abbey. The service was one of thanksgiving for Roehampton’s part in providing higher education to women (supplying education for women longer than any other institution in the country), celebration of the anniversary of Whitelands College, and then in the wider context with the other colleges that make up the University. It was a chance for the college to recognise their achievements in higher education and thanksgiving for the life and work of the University and how it benefits students.

May 20 2016
Centenary Service of Thanksgiving for the Courage and Endurance of Sir Ernest Shackleton CVO and his Men, Westminster Abbey

On Friday 20 May, The Under Sheriff, Lynn Johansen, and Sally Knowles (Consort to the High Sheriff) attended the above service at Westminster Abbey.

Sir Ernest Shackleton CVO was an established Polar Explorer of the heroic age. He was born in Ireland and moved as a boy to London. He attended Dulwich College and pursued a career in the Merchant Navy. He first went to Antarctica on Commander Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition (1901-1903). Between 1907 and 1909 Shackleton returned to Antartica leading the Nimrod Expedition.

In 1914, Shackleton set out on another Antarctic expedition to cross the Antarctic continent. He did not succeed. His vessel, Endurance, was crushed by the ice and sank in the Weddell Sea. However, he achieved one of the greatest feats of turn of the century polar exploration – he returned with his 28 man team alive. The story of the Endurance expedition is one of courage and leadership in the face of adversity. On 20 May 1916, Shackleton and a few of his men arrived on the North Coast of South Georgia and from there begun the rescue of the men left behind.

The service was attended by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Patron of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, accompanied by Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Lawrence KCVO CB. The service was conducted by The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster.

The Honourable Alexandra Shackleton read the following extract from Shackleton’s Boat Journey:

“It was certain that a man of such heroic mind and self-sacrificing nature as Shackleton would undertake this most difficult task himself. He was, in fact, unable by nature to do otherwise. Being a born leader, he had to lead in the position of most danger, difficulty and responsibility. I have seen him turn pale, yet force himself into the post of greatest peril. That was his type of courage: he would do the job that he was most afraid of.”
Frank Worsley (1872-1943)
Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition member

It was a wonderful service celebrating the life of a truly inspirational man and his fellow explorers.

April 2016

April 22 2016
The Declaration of Sir Nigel Knowles as High Sheriff of Greater London

On 22 April 2016, Sir Nigel Knowles was sworn in as the High Sheriff of Greater London. The ceremony was held at the Royal Courts of Justice and involved Sir Nigel, his wife, Lady Knowles, and the Under Sheriff, Lynn Johansen. A small party of family and friends attended.

The High Sheriff, Lady Knowles and the Under Sheriff were met by Alix Beldam, on behalf of the Master of the Crown office, Master Michael Egan QC, at the gate to the Judges’ Quadrangle where they were taken to meet the Lord Chief Justice, The Right Honourable The Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, before the ceremony began. The Queen’s Remembrancer, Senior Master Fontaine, and Chief Clerk to the Queen’s Remembrancer, Ed Boswell, sat on the bench to witness the ceremony which was held in Court 4 of the Royal Courts of Justice.

After the declaration was read, the Lord Chief Justice spoke, giving his observations of the appointment – the oldest non-ecclesiastical appointment by The Queen – and its significance in today’s society as the High Sheriff maintains an interest in justice in the wider sense. The High Sheriff’s theme for 2016-17 is all about increasing opportunities for young offenders and disadvantaged young people.

Lord Chief Justice and Sir Nigel Knowles.