Being High Sheriff During Restrictions

I am writing this to post on the website during the week when I had planned to welcome a lovely gathering of Hampshire people to a summer garden party. Of course, given Covid 19 restrictions, even with the expansion of contact allowed after 4th July, this event cannot take place. Please do look at the short film I have made for my guests so I can introduce myself visually and give you a small taste of the beautiful garden my talented mother in law has created which would have been the setting for the party.   

For me, the cancellation of the garden party stands symbolically for all the changes to the role of High Sheriff which have occurred since I made my declaration, in haste, on Zoom on March 24th and following the imposition of Lockdown so shortly after. It is extraordinary how very quickly a diary filling up with hugely anticipated and interesting events can then so rapidly empty! Disappointing, certainly, for me – but far more so for those who had planned and invested in a range of celebratory, informative and statutory gatherings. 

And so – in common with my High Sheriff colleagues across the country – I have had to be creative in reimagining just how I might fulfil my vow to  “truly and faithfully support the Judiciary and all who maintain The Queen’s Peace, who administer justice, and who protect and support their fellow citizens.” 

Instead of visible encounters across the county, I have needed to peer in behind the scenes through the medium of electronic wizardry, with the occasional, delightful, socially distanced encounters. Seeing how different people and teams, from large complex organisations to small, very localised charities have adapted and shaped their ways of working to lockdown have been immensely impressive. 

I would like to highlight just a few:

We read through our news outlets of the greatly concerning back log of criminal cases in our Courts. What we don’t read about has been the ‘over and above all that could be expected’ level of activity of our Court staff  as they have created and implemented a whole new way of working, through electronic means, and the best use of the actual physical space of our court rooms.  

We have read also of the challenging acts of public disorder which police forces have had to deal with, along with, in Hampshire, burglaries, knife crimes, modern slavery and much more. What we don’t see is the ongoing, week on week, proactive, deep and professional care which our exemplary County Police Force offers in order to protect the most vulnerable from harm and from offending.  

We have seen our NHS staff, as they have responded selflessly to the medical and psychological crisis of Covid 19. What we don’t see are the countless small charities working with those already in crisis through on going vulnerabilities – from, for example, the effects of poverty, isolation, lack of food, mental health challenges, domestic abuse – who often have very small resources of funds and people and yet who have continued to meet the needs of those they care for.  For example – HomeStart, NW Hampshire   continue to support scores of families, making sure basic practical needs are addressed alongside psychological support – from food to behaviour management. Also Transforming Lives for Good  have created a care package programme called “Boxes of Hope”. 

With restrictions being eased I am looking forward to many more encounters with the more visible sectors of the judiciary, but particularly with those who tend to be unseen, without whom, it is no exaggeration to say, our county of Hampshire would not be able to flourish. 

And my hope remains, that along with all the diverse opportunities of supporting the judiciary this office offers, I will be able to further the expansion of  early intervention provision, wherever examples of it already exist, and encourage new growth where needed. 

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