High Sheriffs Awards
July 18 2016
On 18 July the High Sheriff and Under Sheriff visited HMP Wandsworth and met the Governor, Amy Frost. They had a most informative discussion on the challenges faced in running the prison but also learnt of the positive opportunities for the prison presented by the reform programme championed by the last Minister for Justice, the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP.
HMP Wandsworth is one of 6 prisons which are early adopters, as from 1 July, of the reform programme which is designed to provide more autonomy to Prison Governors regarding how their budget is spent, in recruitment and the setting of policies designed with the specific needs of the prison. One of the goals is to improve rehabilitation of prisoners. Prisoners within HMP Wandsworth have reacted positively to this development and many written suggestions have been received from prisoners on how improvements could be made. This has been encouraging. However satisfying the expectations of prisoners for instant change is one of the challenges to be surmounted.
The level of staffing is also a significant issue for the prison which needs to be surmounted. Reports in the press on 20 July have highlighted the severe understaffing of prisons in the UK and rising violence and incidence of self-harming amongst prisoners and state that the impact that lack of staff could have on delivering the reform programme has been recognised by Government Ministers. It is hoped that the changes to recruitment arrangements may have a positive effect in this regard and that this will assist HMP Wandsworth, as an early adopter of the programme.
HMP Wandsworth faces the challenges of understaffing and accommodating the needs of prisoners in a Victorian prison designed to hold half the number it currently does. Prison life is clearly not an easy life. The prison also has to meet the challenges of dealing with the wide array of functions it has. It acts as a remand centre for young offenders and adult prisoners and has to accommodate a high throughput of people awaiting trial and attending court, but also has to serve the needs of long term prisoners, vulnerable prisoners who may be held in segregated units and those on short sentences. At any one time there will also be people detained awaiting the outcome of extradition or deportation proceedings. This presents complex challenges, not least the wide variety of languages to be accommodated.
The prison population in HMP Wandsworth is approximately 1600 men, one of the largest in the UK. There are in effect 2 prisons within the site. One of these is a category C prison which provides a wider array of education and training opportunities to prisoners who are preparing for release. The High Sheriff’s engagement with the issues surrounding rehabilitation of prisoners was discussed and an opportunity was afforded to meet Sarah Fitzgerald, the head of learning and development to discuss some exciting ideas as to how rehabilitation iniatives might be improved in prisons. They discussed the desirability of prisons being able to provide more education and training opportunities, with an emphasis of giving prisoners some experience of making choices, taking responsibility for their choices and a sense of the contribution they can make; thus raising self-esteem and fostering more engagement which could be beneficial for the rehabilitation of prisoners. The benefit of family links and the outside community being engaged in initiatives geared to the rehabilitation of prisoners , in order to provide a stronger foundation for prisoners when they are released to enable them to re-enter the community and the world of work, was also discussed. One interesting idea explored was whether it would be possible for prisons to provide courses in the evening to provide a greater sense of how life operates outside prison, whereby a person in work would attend an education programme or do an activity in the evening after work, so that life can be more normalised in prison.
The High Sheriff and Under Sheriff had an extensive tour of this prison, conducted by Robert Grimes who has been in the prison service for more than 2 decades and was able to add much information regarding prison life and the challenges faced by staff and prisoners. They were most impressed by his calm approach and the obvious dedication that he and other staff met during the tour have for their work. Those met included the Revd. Tim Bryan, who provided a very helpful insight into the work of the chaplaincy as well as the support provided by chaplains on a personal level to prisoners and Haroon Mazharit, who is engaged in the resettlement of prisoners who are due to be released. They also met instructors delivering training on the skills required in the construction industry, such as carpentry, tiling, bricklaying and erecting partitioning and prisoners undergoing such training, who expressed great satisfaction at having the opportunity to develop such skills and determination to get a job in the construction industry on release. They clearly saw this as a route into work and reclaiming their lives as a part of society.
The High Sheriff and Under Sheriff were most impressed by the enthusiasm and calm dedication of Amy Frost and all the staff met and were very appreciative of the opportunity to learn more as well as to be able to show support for all the hard work done by prison staff.
July 12 2016
The Southwark Legal Service
The High Sheriff and Under Sheriff were delighted to be invited by the Honorary Recorder of Southwark, His Honour Judge Roger Chapple, and the Dean of Southwark, the Very Reverend Andrew Nunn, to the 2016 Southwark Legal Service, a Choral Evensong attended by members of the Judiciary on Tuesday, 12 July at 5.30pm at Southwark Cathedral.
The 2016 Southwark Legal Service was the first of what is hoped to become an annual event in thanksgiving for the work of the legal profession in Southwark, which includes three very busy crown courts, Blackfriars, Inner London and Crown Court and Magistrates Courts, and is also home to many active solicitors' practices.
There was a huge attendance. The congregation enjoyed a wonderful service with readings by Lord Justice Fulford and the Dean. The sermon was given by the Bishop of Southwark, the Right Revered Christopher
After the service there was an opportunity for the congregation to meet together and chat with old friends and acquaintances, and to make new ones.
The High Sheriff and Under Sheriff very much enjoyed the occasion.
July 5 2016
Visit to Leap Confronting Conflict.
It was great to meet the charity Leap Confronting Conflict (www.leapconfrontingconflict.org.uk)
on Tuesday, 5 July.
For nearly 30 years Leap has been doing great work in prisons and the community,
helping young people manage conflict more effectively.
Their programmes play a big role in reducing violent behaviour and preparing
young people for education and employment. They run innovative programmes that
involve training prison officers and prisoners together - helping to break down
barriers and improve relationships.
I was encouraged to hear about how they are collaborating with other charities
and their plans for new programmes to address gang violence in Lambeth and
We talked about how important it is to support prisoners to develop their
resilience to cope with the world outside prison - which helps reduce
re-offending and makes society safer for all of us. Leap trains a variety of
professionals who work with young people including teachers, youth workers and
Leap practices what it preaches in involving young people and it was great to
meet young trustee Chantal Chang. Chantal became a young trainer with the
benefit of Leap's training and is now helping shape the future of the
organisation as one of Leap's three young trustees.
July 1 2016
On 1 July 2016, the British and French armies launched an offensive near the
River Somme, in Picardy, France. This series of battles, lasting nearly 5
months, would become one of the bloodiest and most important campaigns of the
First World War. An estimates 3.5 million men fought on both sides, and over 1
million were wounded, captured or killed. Precise statistics remain impossible
to calculate. Many of the soldiers were mere boys.
The Service gave an opportunity to reflect on the battles of the Somme and their
human cost. The Dean of Westminster gave the Bidding:
“This evening, we seek to recall the experience of those eating to go into
battle. This whole night will be a time of vigil; a watch will be maintained at
the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, changing every quarter of an hour, and
representing all the forces involved in the Battle. The watch will conclude at
7.30am when, a hundred years ago, whistles were blown to signal the moment of
Tonight we shall remember the courage and sacrifice of those preparing to face
their enemy, and we shall pray that we may continue to learn the lessons of
history to build a world at peace.”
Prayers were led by The Reverend Christopher Stolz, The Reverend Professor
Vernon White and The Prime Minister, David Cameron.
Her Majesty The Queen placed a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior,
following which the first Watch commenced at the Grave.
June 30 2016
Service on the Eve of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme.
On Thursday 30 June 2016, the High Sheriff and Lady Knowles attended the above
service in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke
June 27 2016
The High Sheriff visited Kingston Crown Court.
The High Sheriff was pleased to meet again His Honour Judge Lodder, and he
accompanied Judge Lodder to his court room and sat alongside him to observe the
business of Judge Lodder's court that morning.
The High Sheriff was also able to spend some time with Judge Lodder in his
chambers, and had a good opportunity to discuss many aspects of the Court,
Criminal Justice System and the impact of new technologies.
Judge Lodder attended the High Sheriff's inaugural reception on 6 June, which
gave the High Sheriff an opportunity to discuss his plans for his Shrieval Year,
namely "A Year for Young Offenders".
After the morning session, the High Sheriff joined the Kingston Crown Court
judges for a most enjoyable, wide-ranging discussion and lunch.
June 22 2016
Visit to Brixton Prison
On 22 June, The High Sheriff and Lady Knowles visited Brixton Prison. They were given a full tour of the facility by The Governor, Giles Mason.
Brixton prison is a rehabilitation prison with many inmates from other prisons being transferred there to serve out the end of their sentences.
There are lots of opportunities for the inmates to learn a trade at Brixton - scaffolding, painting and decorating, building work, catering, baking, barbering and horticulture. In addition there are opportunities to develop skills such as CV and letter writing (to assist with the process of gaining employment post release), literacy, numeracy and keeping fit. A number of 'Category D' prisoners there have the opportunity (thanks to local employers) to go out to work from prison, returning each night to their cells.
The High Sheriff and his wife visited The Clink (the onsite restaurant open to the public) and the Bad Boys Bakery, both staffed by inmates. They also visited the facility's radio station which airs to many prisons nationally. The station (run by the Charity National Prison Radio) has an extensive and varied programme list, many of those programmes tackling issues relevant to rehabilitation and taking the next steps following release. A huge number of the inmates listen to and take support from the station.
The Governor, Mr Mason, was very impressive indeed and his desire to see all of his inmates recovered, reformed back into society and into employment after serving their sentence was clear. His energy and commitment to this was obvious.
There are a lot of good people and organisations working for or with Brixton prison; all trying their best to give the inmates there a second chance. A large number of the prisoners that the High Sheriff and his wife met genuinely seemed motivated and focused on living a crime free life upon release. That can only be a good thing.
Of course, one cannot ignore the loss of liberty a prison sentence brings. As one young offender (now rehabilitated) said to the High Sheriff recently - "prison is not the place you want to be". During this visit, however, seeing and hearing about the huge efforts made by so many to help the rehabilitation process was actually a very positive experience. The High Sheriff and his wife very much appreciated the chance to visit.
June 16 2016
Visit to Southwark Crown Court
On 16 June, The High Sheriff and Lady Knowles paid a visit to Southwark Crown Court.
The High Sheriff and his wife were introduced to His Honour Judge McCreath, Hon Recorder of Westminster, and following this introduction, they accompanied him to his Courtroom. The High Sheriff sat alongside Judge McCreath on the Bench and watched the business of the Court that morning.
Following the morning session, the High Sheriff and his wife were able to spend some time with Judge McCreath in his private office. It was a great opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics pertinent to the criminal justice system and Southwark Crown Court in particular. Judge McCreath had attended the High Sheriff's inaugural reception on 6 June and the visit provided the High Sheriff with a much appreciated opportunity to discuss his plans for the Shrieval year particularly in relation to the rehabilitation of young offenders.
The High Sheriff and his wife joined all the Southwark Crown Court Judges for lunch which was very enjoyable.
Southwark Crown Court is a very busy inner London Court, often trying high profile cases. Despite their extremely busy schedules, the Judges and all the staff at Southwark Crown Court made The High Sheriff and his wife feel very welcome. The staff were eager to show their visitors around and explain the workings of their Court. The pride that the staff and the Judges have in this Court was palpable and something that the High Sheriff and his wife very much took away from the visit.
Nigel Knowles with His Honour Judge McCreath, Hon Recorder of Westminster
June 9 2016
Glad Hymns of Praise Celebrating the 90th Birthday of Her Majesty The Queen.
On 9 June, Lady Knowles and Lynn Johansen, the Under Sheriff, attended a church service at St Luke's Church, Chelsea as guests of the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Councillor Mrs Elizabeth Rutherford, to celebrate The Queen's birthday. It was a joyful occasion, a true celebration, with music very much at the forefront of the proceedings. The choir sang beautifully. The hymns sung by the congregation were all carefully selected:-
All People That on Earth Do Dwell (sung at the Coronation of Her Majesty The Queen)
Praise My Soul the King of Heaven (sung at the wedding of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh)
O Praise Ye The Lord (sung at The Queen's Silver Jubilee Service)
Who Would True Valour See (Sung at The Queen's Golden Jubilee Service)
Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer (Sung at The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Service)
The Royal Borough's Civic Service was conducted in the presence of their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. A reception followed at Chelsea Town Hall.
June 6 2016
The High Sheriff of Greater London's Inaugural Reception at The Prince's Trust, London.
Sir Nigel Knowles held his inaugural drinks reception at The Prince's Trust, where the guests included members of the police service, high court judges, and prison governors. In his speech, delivered at the reception, Nigel announced that he will be promoting the case for more opportunities for young offenders during his one-year tenure, setting out three priorities for the year ahead:
· Understanding the circumstances of young offenders
· Challenging perceptions and stereotypes of young offenders
· Creating more opportunities for young offenders
Nigel will draw on his experience at The Prince's Trust, where he is a Trustee, to fulfil these three priorities. He reminded the audience of the work done by the youth charity to help young offenders have a second chance in life. Last year alone, The Trust supported 58,000 young people of which around 8,000 were offenders or ex-offenders, with some joining programmes while still inside prison and some joining upon being released.
Nigel said: "Creating opportunities for offenders and ex-offenders is a vital challenge to prevent reoffending and making our country and in particular London a safer place. I wanted to make this inaugural speech - my pledge to the people of London - at The Prince's Trust because this is where I have seen so many young people turn their lives around after serving their term. As High Sheriff I want to use this experience for the benefit of the people of London whom I am honoured to serve."
Martina Milburn, chief executive of The Prince's Trust said: "Sir Nigel has made an extremely positive contribution to The Prince's Trust since coming on board as a Trustee in September 2014. All our Trustees are extremely involved in the work of the charity. They have a deep concern for young people and the way in which we are moving forward to reach out to more of them. Sir Nigel is certainly a man of vision and resolve. I feel very confident that he will be a force for good in his new role."
To read Nigel's full speech click
Sir Nigel and Lady Knowles.
May 24 2016
Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the foundation of Whitelands College, University of
Roehampton, Westminster Abbey
On Tuesday, 24th May 2016 at Noon, the High Sheriff attended the above service at Westminster Abbey. The service was one of thanksgiving for Roehampton’s part in providing higher education to women (supplying education for women longer than any other institution in the country), celebration of the anniversary of Whitelands College, and then in the wider context with the other colleges that make up the University. It was a chance for the college to recognise their achievements in higher education and thanksgiving for the life and work of the University and how it benefits students.
May 20 2016
Centenary Service of Thanksgiving for the Courage and Endurance of Sir Ernest Shackleton CVO and his Men, Westminster Abbey
On Friday 20 May, The Under Sheriff, Lynn Johansen, and Sally Knowles (Consort to the High Sheriff) attended the above service at Westminster Abbey.
Sir Ernest Shackleton CVO was an established Polar Explorer of the heroic age. He was born in Ireland and moved as a boy to London. He attended Dulwich College and pursued a career in the Merchant Navy. He first went to Antarctica on Commander Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition (1901-1903). Between 1907 and 1909 Shackleton returned to Antartica leading the Nimrod Expedition.
In 1914, Shackleton set out on another Antarctic expedition to cross the Antarctic continent. He did not succeed. His vessel, Endurance, was crushed by the ice and sank in the Weddell Sea. However, he achieved one of the greatest feats of turn of the century polar exploration - he returned with his 28 man team alive. The story of the Endurance expedition is one of courage and leadership in the face of adversity. On 20 May 1916, Shackleton and a few of his men arrived on the North Coast of South Georgia and from there begun the rescue of the men left behind.
The service was attended by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Patron of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, accompanied by Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Lawrence KCVO CB. The service was conducted by The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster.
The Honourable Alexandra Shackleton read the following extract from Shackleton's Boat Journey:
"It was certain that a man of such heroic mind and self-sacrificing nature as
Shackleton would undertake this most difficult task himself. He was, in fact, unable by nature to do otherwise. Being a born leader, he had to lead in the position of most danger, difficulty and responsibility. I have seen him turn pale, yet force himself into the post of greatest peril. That was his type of courage: he would do the job that he was most afraid of."
Frank Worsley (1872-1943)
Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition member
It was a wonderful service celebrating the life of a truly inspirational man and his fellow explorers.
April 22 2016
The Declaration of Sir Nigel Knowles as High Sheriff of Greater London
On 22 April 2016, Sir Nigel Knowles was sworn in as the High Sheriff of Greater London. The ceremony was held at the Royal Courts of Justice and involved Sir Nigel, his wife, Lady Knowles, and the Under Sheriff, Lynn Johansen. A small party of family and friends attended.
The High Sheriff, Lady Knowles and the Under Sheriff were met by Alix Beldam, on behalf of the Master of the Crown office, Master Michael Egan QC, at the gate to the Judges' Quadrangle where they were taken to meet the Lord Chief Justice, The Right Honourable The Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, before the ceremony began. The Queen's Remembrancer, Senior Master Fontaine, and Chief Clerk to the Queen's Remembrancer, Ed Boswell, sat on the bench to witness the ceremony which was held in Court 4 of the Royal Courts of Justice.
After the declaration was read, the Lord Chief Justice spoke, giving his observations of the appointment - the oldest non-ecclesiastical appointment by The Queen - and its significance in today's society as the High Sheriff maintains an interest in justice in the wider sense. The High Sheriff's theme for 2016-17 is all about increasing opportunities for young offenders and disadvantaged young people.
Lord Chief Justice and Sir Nigel Knowles.
here to view the Greater London News published in the Summer 2014
edition of The High Sheriff magazine
here to view the Greater London News published in the Summer 2013
edition of The High Sheriff magazine
here to view the Greater London News page for 2015-2016
here to view the Greater London News page for 2014-2015
here to view the Greater London News page for 2013-2014