13 Sheriffs' and Recorder's Fund AGM at the Central Criminal Court

Monday 7th July 2014

For over 200 years the Sheriffs' and Recorder's Fund has been helping ex-offenders make a new start in life and endeavouring to relieve hardship for the families of serving offenders. The Masters and Clerks of the Livery Companies together with City Officials and Past Sheriffs are invited to the Annual General Meeting held in the Central Criminal Court. And so it was that our new Clerk, Sandra Stocker, on her first day in office, and I found ourselves in No 1 Court at the Old Bailey. We declined an offer to sit in the dock! Following approval of minutes and accounts, election of officers and the Chairman's report, we listened to two talks.

The first was from a beneficiary of the fund, aged 45, who explained how, at an early age, she became dependent upon drugs and alcohol. Over the years she has served a number of prison sentences for drug dealing. She has managed to come off both drugs and alcohol through help and her own will power. One was struck by her fluency and bravery in recounting her story. A most striking thing was that she had been joined by her son, who had been born when she was 16 and looked after by his grandparents. He has never been in trouble and this is extremely rare. A moving example of the important work done by this charity which received heartfelt applause from those present.

The second talk was from Lord Ramsbotham GCB CBE, a former HM Inspector of Prisons. He is an outspoken reformer in the world of criminal justice and prisons in particular. An irritant to the Establishment, he shared his considerable concerns over the prisons and probation reforms being currently proposed and put forward a well argued case for an alternative approach.

Upon leave the Court, we met Judge Richard Hone QC,who was my principle guest at the Installation Dinner last month. He asked us to join him in his rooms, which were opposite No 1 Court. After a delightful chat, we all adjourned to the Reception.