On the 2nd November the Magistrates Association for Staffordshire held its Annual General Meeting for members at the Western Road Academy in Stafford. In conjunction with the AGM, it also organised its first ever conference for non-members, to which I had the honour of being invited.
The event focused on local justice and was designed to provide delegates with information on regional initiatives. There were several exhibitors including Geo Amey, which bought a prison van for visitors to look around, and the Safer Road Partnership, who showcased a camera van and motorbike and shared informative films with delegates.
Local justice is extremely important to me, not only through my role as High Sheriff of Staffordshire, but also on a personal level, so I was extremely keen to be a part of this event.
A subject very close to my heart is the County Lines issue. County Lines offending is where organised criminal gangs exploit groups of young people from urban areas and move into smaller towns to distribute hard drugs and encourage vulnerable people into crime. This is happening more and more across the UK, but Staffordshire police are working hard with local communities to eradicate County Lines crime within our county.
To help raise awareness of County Lines crime, I was invited to open the event with a brief talk on why this topic is so important to me and introduce the first speaker of the day, DC Anthony David, who kicked-off the conference with a detailed and extremely informative presentation.
Following lunch, which gave us all an opportunity to talk to the exhibitors in more detail, there was the second plenary led by David Goodman, which focused on Complex Sentencing, and the third plenary on Litigants in Person, chaired by Jason Holt. The last talk, Difficult People in Court, led by HHJ Fletcher, was followed by a lively panel Q&A session, on which I sat. I also took the opportunity to thank all the magistrates for their continued work in administrating justice in the county.
I would like to thank the Magistrates Association for Staffordshire for its invite to this inaugural conference and for providing me with the perfect platform from which to raise more awareness of County Lines crimes, as well as learn more about what is being done to tackle it.