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High Sheriff’s End of Term report

High Sheriff’s End of Term report

For one year, St Bernadette’s Church and our Priest Father Christopher Whitehead acted as surrogate church and  chaplain to to Dr Tim Chambers as he took on the role of Bristol’s High Sherrif. Dr Chambers had a special interest in the people of South Bristol hence the temporary ‘ adoption’. That year has expired. Here Dr Chambers gives us an ‘end of therm’ report of his year in office.

Editors Note.


High Sheriff of the County of City of Bristol 2009-2010

My year closed as it began, in March at Bristol Crown Court in the court of the Honourable Mr Justice Field. What a year!

My first engagement set the tone for the office: a visit to a male young offender institution where the Sherifina and I were impressed by the commitment of the staff and the welcome of the young men. It was described by the director as a school with locked doors and its ethos was to prepare its students for a fresh start, free of crime. We were pleased with the provision of mental health services for this vulnerable group. Later in the year we joined the staff for a celebration of the institution’s first 10 years.


Commitment and welcome are the two memories which we shall retain. My two themes for the year have been to support parents and parenting (my experience as a paediatrician and magistrate has taught me how vital a supportive parental/care giving background is) and the youth organisations and those adults who give so much time to them. Countless adults in the City of Bristol are working to support young people in schools, youth groups, uniformed and not, and sports clubs. (I was told there are 90 alone supporting Life skills – Learning for Living, a safety education centre built as a realistic village on the 4th floor of The CREATE Centre, Hotwells.) I was able to visit many of them during my year. I asked some why they volunteered: “to put something back to the city”  “to help give them a chance” – were the invariable responses. It was a pleasure to thank them on behalf of the County. It was also a pleasure to work alongside several organisations, statutory and not, which promote positive parenting and reduction of domestic violence. It was a particular honour to present awards to parents who had undertaken parenting courses – demanding arduous both in personal time and emotional resource. Both my themes promote crime reduction – a vital part of the High Sheriff’s job description.


Bristol is a prominent legal centre and it was a privilege to meet and sit with the High court judges on circuit, with the Crown Court judiciary together with the magistrates (who deal with more than 90% of crime) and the coroners. The dedication and considerateness of all court staff was most welcome. I pay particular tribute to jurors: they have a central role in the criminal justice system, may have to hear about complex or disturbing events and assimilate and marshal many facts before delivering their verdict. I learned of the effectiveness of Restorative Justice from The Princess Royal who spoke at a school seminar: it made me aware of the importance of apology, inextricably linked to atonement and, perhaps the most important and under publicised elements, mercy and forgiveness.


Pageantry: we had six Royal visits; a memorable Remembrance Sunday wreath laying and march past; a 21 gun salute on the birthday of the Prince of Wales; a moving service in memory of those members of The Rifles Regiment who died in Afghanistan and several degree ceremonies by the two Bristol universities. All reminded me of the importance of national and civic leadership to our diverse, committed and engaged society, especially its selfless young people.


I was able to mount a successful appeal for funds for Bristol Youth Community Action (BYCA) – Bristol’s Crimebeat – and made a number of visits to the projects. On one such I hiked to the top of a Mendip peak: the young people followed me probably out of curiosity as to whether I would expire, as much as for their own benefit.


My supportive chaplain, Fr Christopher Whitehead assisted at my incoming and outgoing masses at Clifton Cathedral and played a prominent part in Legal Sunday. His parish of St Bernadette in South Bristol has sustained me during the year and I am most grateful to them both.


An uplifting, memorable, humbling year of service, to a fine and unique British county and city – for which many thanks.



Dr Tim Chambers

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