Since my first posting on the website a lot has happened across the world, but little has changed in my small corner. All my plans for events and visits have been either cancelled including two royal visits or postponed. But I have surprised myself by how busy each day has been, in spite of the fact that until very recently I had not been beyond the perimeter of my garden.
Like others my time has been taken up with virtual meetings, phone calls and a considerable amount of letter writing to support and thank key individuals and their staff. These have included; Civic Leaders, Chief Constable, Police and Crime Commissioner, Ambulance service, Fire Service, Directors of Public Health, Directors of Social Care, Judges, Head of Probation services, Coroner, prison Governors, NHS Regional Offices, NHS Directors of Nursing and some Schools. In addition letters have also been sent to those who support key services for example; staff working in the Courts, Judges Lodgings, Community Foundation, Citizens Advice Bureaus, and many others who have continued to work throughout lock down often as volunteers including; numerous charities providing food, clothing, support, education and occupation to a variety of people of all ages and ability, and those who are so often forgotten such as refuse collectors. I have been humbled by responses and requests for support which I am now beginning to be able to respond to as the world opens up again.
I am not good at social media but I have responded to a number of requests for videos, photos or statements to support special days such as, the Lord lieutenants Campaign to thank children and young people for staying at home, The 10thAnniversary of Nottingham Refugee Forum 22nd June, NHS Day on July 5th and “The Big School Bell” on July 24th. I have also done two local television interviews one to thank people for “Making a Difference” and one to support the NHS day which was not shown, probably because it coincided with the pubs reopening. My letters have prompted some individuals to respond to me with further requests for support. For example, a charity called “Positively Empowered Kids” asked if I would write something to support their charity on Social Media which I was pleased to do because the charity focuses on helping young people develop confidence. Nottinghamshire Social services staff have had an incredibly difficult time some of them working 7 days a week, so I was pleased to be interviewed by phone for them to place my thanks on their social media sites.
The most significant event in the Nottinghamshire High Sheriff year is the Queens Birthday Service held at Southwell Minster in June on the Sunday following trooping the colour. This is followed by a lunch hosted by the High Sheriff for the Judiciary, Civic Leaders and significant others. None of this was possible but together with the Dean of the Minster (my chaplain), and the few non-furloughed staff, successfully managed to put together an imaginative service, which was placed on the their website for easy access and can now be viewed on YouTube. We pre-recorded everything on our phones and submitted them to the Minster. The short videos that made up the service included; a Sister working in the Intensive Care unit of Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, two Army officers involved in building the Nightingale hospital in Manchester, one of my Police Cadets, the CEO of Equation the charity I am supporting this year, the Lord Lieutenant and myself. The Dean led the service and the Bishop gave the address. Whilst it certainly wasn’t the occasion originally planned it did reach a wider audience with friends as far away as Australia watching it.
Finding alternative ways of fund raising for my chosen charity at a time when so many small charities are concerned about their future has been hard. I am working closely with the charity to support their funding applications with letters of support to accompany funding applications. I’ve also been encouraging other charities to consider finding a nominator, who has benefited from accessing their charity, to support an application for a Queens award for Voluntary service ( QAVS ).
I am now planning my first steps out; visits include the Guru Nanak Mission where volunteers cook suppers for the homeless in the centre of Nottingham and Stonebridge City Farm which is in an area of regeneration. Plans are also being made for me to follow the journey an individual with a mental health problem will experience through the judicial system, including arrest, the mental health custody suite, support from the mental health nurse in the Court and the Health Centre in prison. Nottinghamshire Health Care provide mental health services across the legal system in Nottinghamshire, as well as Rampton Special Hospital. Both my Chaplain Dean Nicola Sullivan and Under Sheriff Deborah Hutchison are keen to join me when I commence my visits to the four Prisons, and we hope to do something special in November for Prisons day.
I am at an early stage of thinking about how I might be able to have an Awards event for both prison officers and healthcare staff working in the legal system. I particularly want to be able during my year to highlight the extraordinarily difficult work both groups of staff undertake, much of it in partnership. Ideally, I would like to showcase their commitment to improvement in order to create a different narrative about working within this little known or understood field of work.
I am looking forward to being able to join the Judges in each type of Court, High Court Family Court, County Court and Magistrates. I am also hoping to observe cases in the Coroners Court. I am interested in particular to learn more about how witnesses, victims and their families are supported .I have two friends who are volunteers, which has whetted my appetite to learn more.
St Marys Church is the oldest religious foundation in the city of Nottingham. The vicar Tom Gillum contacted me about an idea he has to both open the church up again and find a way for us all to learn from the experience we’ve been through. He would especially like to hear from people about what they think they will do differently as a result of their experience, and will do this by holding small discussion groups in the church with a themed focus for each.
The Bishop of Nottinghamshire holds Breakfast meetings 3 or 4 times a year to bring together all the key people in the County to “tell it as it is” under Chatham House rules. I attended my first one ( held virtually ) on 20th June and found it fascinating to hear from so many different perspectives the impact of Covid 19 . One significant message came out of the meeting that we all need to be aware of the significant mental health issues that are already emerging as a result of lockdown.
One of the joys of lockdown has been the fortnightly SKYPE meetings the High Sheriffs across East Midlands have had. Between us we have generated some interesting discussions, gained support, as well ideas about our roles, and in the process, we have become great virtual friends. We submitted an account of our meetings together with a photo of us all “on- line” to be published in the next High Sheriff Newsletter. We invited to one of our meetings the CEO Reserve Forces and Cadet network in East Midlands . We learnt a lot and look forward to meeting him and his colleagues as soon as we are able . Our next guest we hope might be the National Director of Health and Justice , Armed Forces and Sexual Assault Services Commissioning, Specialised Commissioning.
So, what next ? Well the Garden Party is not now taking place which is a great pity because the garden is looking good thanks to the unexpected amount of time, I have spent in it. I hope however to be able to hold a different kind of event at the end of the year instead, but this will be dependent on how many people can be gathered together in one place. My work as Deputy Lieutenant blends well with the current focus on finding individuals to put forward for Individual Honours and providing support to nominators. I am looking forward to attending, virtually, my first meeting of the Violence Reduction Board which will further increase my knowledge but also bring me into contact with individuals I not yet met. I will also be following up a number of the charities that have contacted me to see if a visit would be welcomed. Importantly I intend to catch up on lost time!
Whilst my Installation wasn’t as planned, I was nevertheless proud and honoured by the virtual experience of making my declaration. I look forward to when social distancing enables me to support the County of Nottinghamshire which has been my home for over 30 years. I am looking forward not only to learning more about our multi-cultural, multi ethnic County, but also to highlighting some of the unseen and unsung work of many amazing individuals who help ensure people are safe, supported and cared for, often in a voluntary capacity.
The role of High Sheriff is the oldest secular office in the UK after the Crown. All the historical events leading up to this event are ancient. But, I found it strangely reassuring that they are still in use today, and the role still relevant, despite the challenging and unpredictable times we have experienced recently. During this current phase of restricted movement I am trying to make contact with as many organisations and individuals as possible to let them know I am thinking about the, to offer support albeit remotely, and to thank them for their work.
I decided a while ago my theme for the year would be to support those involved in ensuring health and welfare of staff and clients across the legal system. I made this decision because it binds together my background as a nurse and the role of High Sheriff as the Queens representative for law and order in the County. This year has been designated by WHO as the International year of the Nurse / Midwife, it being the bi-centenary of Florence Nightingales birth. Given my background I can’t ignore “Nursing`s Big Moment”. So the focus of much of my year as High Sheriff will have a health and welfare focus supporting the Judiciary, the Police and Law Enforcement Agencies, and Emergency services. I look forward, when able, to supporting the work of the Chief Constable Craig Guilford and the Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping, both of whom have a refreshing focus on prevention, reconciliation and victim support. I am particularly interested to support the work of Victim support , the volunteers who act as witness supporters in our Courts and the Mental Health Nurses who work in custody suites. I have begun a dialog in one of the Nottinghamshire prisons about how I can maybe support the difficult task of culture change inside the prison and show case to the public the extraordinary difficult work of prison officers.
I have chosen “Equation” as my charity for the year. It is an Award winning, small Nottingham based charity. Since 1989 it has worked to prevent Domestic Abuse and reduce the harm it causes for women and men. Domestic and sexual violence and abuse are complex worldwide public health issues. Both sexes are affected, although disproportionately women and girls. Recently published research demonstrated nursing professionals are three times more likely to have experienced domestic abuse in the last year than the average person in the UK. The majority of the nursing workforce are women, just 11% are men, which probably accounts for the research findings, but doesn’t diminish the impact of the high level in my profession.
The experience of domestic violence can lead to a variety of physical and mental health problems, including, fatal outcomes, physical injuries, unintended pregnancies, mental health problems including depression and post-traumatic stress. 1:6 children suffer or have witnessed domestic abuse. In one pupil referral unit (not in Nottinghamshire) catering for permanently excluded students aged between 5 and 16 more than 90% have domestic violence in their profiles. Children experience the same fear and anxiety that adults feel, and experience the same consequences which if untreated, may last for years. As the consequences of managing Covid 19 become more apparent. Domestic Abuse has emerged as a significant issue causing considerable concern across the county.
My choice of chaplain also connects with my interest in health and welfare. I am extremely grateful to Dean Nicola Sullivan for agreeing to undertake this role, in spite of her considerable workload at the Minster. She too has a background in Nursing and Midwifery, and I look forward to her support during my year, in particular when visiting the prisons, which I have found in the past to be a salutary experience. It is widely recognised a considerable proportion of prisoners have a mental health illnes. But what is less well understood is that people with a Mental Health illnesses are more likely than the general population to be victims of violence not the perpetrator. Those working in Mental Health services are concerned the recently released and deeply disturbing film “Jocker”, inaccurately legitimises the public to associate Mental Health illness with violence, potentially perpetuating this view.
Nottingham has a wide variety of interesting and beautiful buildings, but I selected to have my Installation at Southwell Minster because it is one of my favourite places in Nottinghamshire. The Minster itself is magnificent and the Archbishops Palace of which the medieval State Room, where my Installation was to have taken place, has an amazing history. It dates back to 956 and was first mentioned in the Domesday book in 1086. The Palace has hosted seven of our early Kings, as well as Tudor Statesmen including Cardinal Wolsey who fled here after failing to secure Henry 8th divorce from Catherine of Aragon. And during the English Civil War Charles 1st used this room as a meeting place while held captive here before his death. Secondly I chose this venue because in 1818 it served as a Courthouse for the “Soke of Southwell”, a fitting use given the legal elements of a High Sheriffs Installation.