Carole Diane O’Neill High Sheriff of South Yorkshire 2020 / 21
In an attempt to reach a wider reading audience and promote the role of the High Sheriff in 2020 I have elected to set up a Twitter account. However I am conscious that the High Sheriff website for South Yorkshire within the High Sheriff Association requires populating with information.
Below you will find a summary of my year as High Sheriff for South Yorkshire.
I would like to start by saying as a woman who has spent all my working life living and working within South Yorkshire I am very proud and honoured to be the first female from Doncaster to be appointed High Sheriff of South Yorkshire.
My Declaration on 2nd April 2020 like many in this unprecedented year was conducted virtually which was a first for South Yorkshire and perhaps not the last. I was pleased to have all the dignitaries present including 3 High Court Judges, my family and friends . My declaration was conducted and recorded for posterity by the Honorary Recorder of Sheffield Jeremy Richardson QC . A separate recording was made by the Lord Lieutenant which he kindly distributed to all guests . In many respects it was an unusual declaration; however I was able to have many more guests than would have been possible had we have been in court as is usual which is a positive.
The word I would use for my year is positivity. I have taken this approach to make things happen and get the most out of the year as I possibly could given the Government restrictions and guidelines.
One of the High Sheriff roles is to entertain the visiting judges. As we were in lockdown I decided to think out of the box and entertain via Zoom … a word of which I used to know from comic strips but which is now used every day to conduct virtual meetings. I set about inviting my guests asking about their dietary requirements, sending food and drink to their homes and a link to Zoom.
At the appointed time we all met up and thankfully the food and drink had arrived ; we started with pre dinner drinks followed by food after which I had set a quiz which was all very light hearted … I was assured it was well received so I continued . Those invited included and not restricted to The Lord Lieutenant, The Honorary Recorder of Sheffield , my Under Sheriff, Chief Fire Officer, Deputy Lieutenants, my Chaplin, Cannon and Judges.
I have attended in my dress court attire to sit with the visiting Presiding Judge and visiting High Court Judges , plus Crown Court Judges and District Judges in the Magistrates’ Court. I also had the opportunity to sit with the Senior Coroner in Sheffield. Where it has not been possible to physically welcome the visiting Judge I have sent flowers as a welcome to South Yorkshire.
For my Shrieval year I am Vice Chairman of the South Yorkshire Community Foundation (SYCF) an organisation I am proud to support.
I have attended numerous meetings in person when allowed and via Zoom discussing grant allocation for local projects such as food banks, crime reduction , Covid and Flood funding.
Organising visits to local charities
One of which is IN2change in Sheffield which helps with the rehabilitation of offenders. It runs a Domestic Violence programme which is well attended . Unfortunately we are all aware that the incidence of domestic violence is on the increase..so a much needed programme.
DeHood Boxing Club Gym , again in Sheffield which runs fitness and health programmes. This gym has assisted in local crime reduction by 70 % over the past 2 years. This Gym is run by an ex offender who is now a respected member of the community. There are many volunteers in house providing a wide range of programmes to assist the local community. The local Fire and Rescue Service train in the gym there also.
Local Food banks… supporting many smaller food banks . I made the suggestion that perhaps they should all work together and pool resources.
Food banks were to be my theme for my Shrieval year.. unfortunately they have become a way of life for many which is good for those recipients but a fact of life in our society today.
The Violence Reduction Unit Sheffield – a Government funded charity which is based above the custody suite on Shepcote Lane. The team work in all 4 areas of South Yorkshire reducing crime. They support and run many educational sessions, Knife and Gun crime prevention, Domestic Violence programmes, Health Awareness , Mental Health support, Housing and budgeting problems with advice this list is not extensive.
Doncaster Deputy Lieutenants.. we meet virtually to discuss charities as part of the Lord Lieutenants outreach programme. Very much based at forging relationships, interaction to see how local charities / services are fairing under this unprecedented situation. Offering assistance if required.
High Sheriff Awards to Young People
Sifting applications from nominators , framing certificates, having them delivered by the sponsor. Then meeting virtually via Zoom for the formal meeting , discussing and congratulating the young person on their award.
I have met some amazing young people who have a great future in front of them.
High Sheriff Advisory Committee
Chair of the South Yorkshire Committee as per our constitution.
Recently rewrote our constitution which states the present HS will chair the meeting , the communications of which are sensitive and confidential due to the nature of the business discussed by the committee. The Lord Lieutenant is a member of this committee.
High Sheriff Personal Awards
As with many of my colleagues I will be making these in March 2021 to organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond.
I have had the privilege of presenting Citizenship Certificates to those people who have successfully applied to become British Citizens. Meeting their families and hearing about their experiences has been for me a rewarding experience and a pleasure.
Meeting with local people following the 2018/ 19 flooding, local councillors, local residents, flood wardens , food banks and charities involved , churches etc. I have been humbled by the local people inviting me into their homes to view flood damage and to chat on a range of subjects .
Foster good relationships by meeting with Doncaster Chief Executive , the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, the 3 other local Mayors and MPs, members of the Armed Forces, Police and Crime Commissioner also writing emails and letters of support to organisations.
Attending V.E. Day, V.J Day and Remembrance Day Services . Some physically with some pre recorded for South Yorkshire on the same day.
Attending Sunday services at Sheffield Cathedral and Doncaster Minster.
December With the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Mayor, Chief Fire Officer and the Master Cutler I attended a service in the Cathedral to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the Blitz on Sheffield
Christmas Eve I attended a service of Lessons and Carols at the Cathedral and finished the evening at Midnight Mass in Doncaster Minster.
3 organisations: Food banks , Children / Youth Taekwondo Club,
Beacon of Light – a Barnsley Charity offering carer support for parents, family and friends of substance abuse users.
In view of the circumstances I have kept my involvement with the police to a minimum as understandably they have been exceptionally busy . However the Chief Constable is aware of my support for the service as is the Chief Fire Officer.
I was invited by the Lord Lieutenant to be present at 3 days of Investitures. Very interesting to meet the recipients of the MBE and OBE and their families an opportunity that I would never experienced if I had not been the High Sheriff.
There have been discussions regarding Lord Lieutenants I am grateful to the Lord Lieutenantof South Yorkshire who had been very helpful and supportive throughout my year of office.
I am currently organising The South Yorkshire Legal Service which to be practical has a plan A and B which will be Government Restriction compliant.