Sheriffs' & Recorder's Fund AGM

Monday 10th July 2017

The Old Bailey

Our Benevolent Fund has supported the Sheriffs’ & Recorder’s Fund for many years. The current level of annual contribution is £5,000 which compares favourably with the total donations of £139,236 received by the Sheriffs’ & Recorder’s Fund. Many livery companies support this worthwhile charity and were represented by their respective masters and clerks. Our Learned Clerk, Sandra, accompanied me and Liveryman Jenny Merton was also there, in her own capacity as a supporter of the Fund.

In the splendour of Court No 1, Lady Brewer brought the meeting to order and we ran through the Agenda approving minutes, accounts and officers for the ensuing year. What made this event well worth attending were the contributions from a beneficiary of the fund, two Brixton prison officers and the Governor of HMP Isis.

Keaton’s candid account of how he progressed from dealing on the streets at the age of 13, to becoming a resident of HMP Isis and being accepted on to a programme to prepare him for release was very moving. There is no better way to illustrate the importance of the Sheriffs’ & Recorder’s Fund’s work of improving ex-offenders’ chances of rehabilitation than to listen to a first-hand account of what can be done. Keaton was articulate, engaging, witty and very bright. I hope he makes a success of his new life. The two addresses from Laura and Sharon, prison officers working at HMP Brixton brought home the pressures and stresses of today’s prison environment, particularly in the older Victorian prisons built at a time when rehabilitation was not an objective of the penal system. Finally, Emily Thomas, Governor of HMP Isis, gave an account of how her expectations of the justice system has moved from the pessimistic to the optimistic. In her view, some fundamental issues are now being recognised and addressed. Ms Thomas is an outstanding speaker and covered many issues from how to set up a recruitment campaign for a new prison named Isis (which opened just before ISIS began to dominate global news) to the opening of the Clink Restaurant at HMP Brixton. After the meeting closed, we adjourned to the Judges’ Dining Room for sparkling wine, sandwiches and chats with other masters and clerks.