My Shrieval Year
I graduated with an honours degree in Chemistry 1980 and have now lived in Bedfordshire for over 30 years. Shortly after graduating, I met my husband Tom who had just qualified as a doctor at the Medical School. I worked as a Medical Physicist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Selly Oak Hospital. Soon after moving to Bedford in 1983, when Tom joined the GP Vocational Training scheme at Bedford General Hospital, I took up a post at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington and commuted to London for a year. I was then invited to join a British medical imaging manufacturing company as their Clinical Phyisicist in a teaching role. A few years later I organised a management buyout to become director and owner of the new company. At that time I was involved in growing the awareness of osteoporosis and its management in the UK, providing equipment to measure bone density, supporting and training clinicians and taking part in both National and International conferences.
Towards the end of the 1990s, I was invited to become a Parish Councillor for Milton Ernest. My prime reason for agreeing to join the Parish Council was to reduce the speed of traffic through the village. A few years later I became Chairman and now, 15 years on and having been involved with many local issues, I am proud to have been part of the team to bring average speed cameras to Milton Ernest. This pilot scheme for the entire UK, of a new camera technology, is already making the village a safer place! I also helped lead the campaign, and subsequent appeal, to oppose the installation of a large waste incinerator in the northern reaches of the county. I have also been involved with the local lower school, being on its governing body for 8 years and Chairman for the latter half of that time. I coordinated the creation of a federation with a neighbouring lower school.
On the sale of my business over 12 years ago, I invested in property in the South of France offering both vacation and residential opportunity for guests. A successful Bedfordshire based business, easyJet, has facilitated easy travel between Luton and Nice.
Tom and I have one daughter Alice currently age 14, who is a student at Bedford Modern School. Deborah’s interests include playing and listening to live music, skiing, the countryside, shooting (clays!) and snorkelling. From an early age I have played both flute and piano. I am a past member of the Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra (MYJO – which rehearsed at Canon Hill, the other side of the Bristol Road) and Bedford Symphony Orchestra, and became a Fellow of the London College of Music in 1983. I currently enjoy playing in various local music ensembles.
I have just come to the end of a fantastic year as High Sheriff of Bedfordshire. The office of High Sheriff is over 1,000 years old and is the oldest civil office connected to the Crown. Years ago, the role of High Sheriff was more onerous than now. The original ‘Shire Reeves’ were Royal officials appointed to collect revenues and enforce law and order. High Sheriffs had extensive powers. They judged cases in monthly courts and acted as law enforcement officers. They could raise the ‘hue and cry’ after criminals in the County and could raise a ‘posse’ which is the military force of a County. They were fundamental in the running of the Shire. In collecting taxes, anything not collectable came out of the Shire Reeves own pocket. Some High Sheriffs may not have been too keen to take on the role. Nowadays, many of these powers have been centralized for example by the creation of the Inland Revenue, Police forces and Court rooms with judges or magistrates.
Today, the High Sheriff is the queen’s representative responsible for Law and Order and the judiciary in the county. The Office of High Sheriff is apolitical and entirely self-funded. I have really enjoyed the challenge of supporting the Queen’s judiciary as well as supporting the enormous contribution made by the emergency services, the armed forces, local authorities, church and faith groups and the voluntary community. The role of High Sheriff appears to be as relevant as ever and I have had enthusiastic response from the many groups I have been involved in and I have really enjoyed bringing people together.
2013-14 saw a number of changes in Bedfordshire with a new Chief Constable, new Coroner, new Chief Executive of Bedford hospital and new commandant at DISC Chicksands. We have enjoyed entertaining them as well as introducing them to other key people as well as the High Court and Crown Court judges.
A notable part of the High Sheriffs year is the service to celebrate the role of the judiciary. During the year we will have been to 7 High Sheriff Justice Services. The most High Sheriffs at any one time was for an evening service for the High Sheriff of Northamptonshire, where there were 11 HS. We also had the privilege of attending the celebration service of the Queen’s Coronation in Westminster Abbey.
During my year, we had one Royal visit. HRH Prince Charles visited Bedfordshire for 4 events on the 3rd December. It was an honour and pleasure to meet Prince Charles who I thought was utterly charming!
As many High Sheriffs before me, I have been doing lots of Citizenship Ceremonies. At the moment, we are creating about 50-60 new British citizens per week in Bedfordshire. The ceremonies are held in the Registry Offices of Bedford, Luton and more recently the re-furbished Ampthill Court rooms.
I have had much involvement with the Police, Special Constabulary and Cadets groups, giving long term service awards to the Police and Specials and also celebrated 100 years of Special Constables. In addition, I have spoken to all four Police cadet groups in Bedfordshire and been out on patrol with the police and the specials. I enjoyed fascinating visit to both Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue and to Bedford Prison. We have also supported the Sea Cadets, Marine Cadets, Army Cadets and the Combined Cadet Forces.
More recently, I have spent a lot of time with Probation, particularly with the Integrated Offender Management (IOM). Speaking to various people in other counties, it rather sounds like Bedfordshire leads the way in IOM. I have also been working with the Penal Affairs Group of St. Albans Diocese and the IOM team to pilot a Community Payback scheme using ex-offenders to help in our church yard clear up. We will be getting this going over the Spring time.
During the year I have been involved with a variety of charitable fundraising events including clay pigeon shooting, golf days and charitable dinners. This has raised funds for Bedford Open Door, a charity concerned in young people’s mental health, and for Crimebeat which is The Youth Crime prevention Charity of the High Sheriffs’ Association in England & Wales as well as The East Anglian Air Ambulance.
At my installation I mentioned that I hoped to work with organisations, across the County, involved with young people, particularly those that seek to keep them from drifting into crime. I have had discussions with Probation, CAB, ex-offenders, young people, and it strikes me that one of the most likely aspects that will influence whether a young person turns to crime or whether somebody re-offends when they come out of prison is how financially capable they are, not whether they have much money but how they budget and try to manage it in general. In my view, there needs to be more equipping of young people with Life Skills, particularly financial capability. I am planning to continue exploring this topic and will consider if this is an area that will benefit from my continued commitment.
I held my High Sheriff Community Awards evening at the wonderful new Higgins Gallery in Bedford. I gave 30 or so awards to many dedicated and hardworking people from across the county. The event was wonderfully supported by Mark West of the Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation Trust and also by many former High Sheriffs and DLs. Later that month, I am delighted to report that at the National Crimebeat Awards in London to which I submitted two projects, the 3rd prize was awarded to the Luton Knife Crime Project. It was great to have a positive success story generated by the young people of Luton.
My year in office has been significantly helped by the support of my Under Sheriff and clerk, the Shrievalty family of Bedfordshire and so many people I have met throughout my year. I have also been very much supported by our wonderful Lord-Lieutenant, Helen Nellis. Sue Zubrot, PA to the Lord-Lieutenant, has done a fantastic job keeping my website up to date with my engagements and pictures taken at various events..
My year has just flown by; I have had 359 engagements and have enjoyed every minute. I have had the most wonderful year, made lots of new friends, been welcomed all over the County, enjoyed many memorable occasions, learnt so much and had glimpses of aspects hitherto unknown. I hope I have put a lot back and I can assure you all that I will continue to do so.
High Sheriff of Bedfordshire
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