Hope After Harm celebrated its second Charity Criminal Justice Awards on Friday 22nd March at The Oxfordshire Golf and Hotel, Bucks.

The awards celebrated the outstanding contributions made by individuals and organisations in the field of criminal justice and the achievements of those who have gone above and beyond to improve the lives of others.

Chief Executive Officer, Nikki Ross presented awards to six individuals who were meticulously chosen by a judging panel formed of The Countess Howe, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire and the Thames Valley High Sheriffs 2023/2024.

The award categories and the winners were:

Elspeth Nesbit, Hope After Harm – Community Impact (Volunteer)
Elspeth has worked consistently as a volunteer supporting victims of crime for over 10 years. The crimes have varied between supporting the families of homicides, survivors of domestic abuse and significant sexual violence and victims of anti-social behaviour and a vast array of other crime types.

Elspeth has always been an enthusiastic volunteer, happy to take on any case, no matter how complex and how much of her time the case will demand of her, and she works many dedicated hours as a volunteer.

Elspeth is warm, supportive, empathetic and always constructive in her support for victims. She has been a true tower of strength, friendship and loyalty to the caseworkers and staff members who have had the positive opportunity to work alongside her.

Neelam Shiraz, Thames Valley Police – Community Impact (Employee)
In 2022, Milton Keynes experienced four knife related murders, which understandably sent ripples through the communities of Milton Keynes. On top of the inevitable grief and sense of loss, each murder presented a different policing challenge.

Neelam very quickly established, through excellent communication skills, the opportunity to build relationships and conducted thorough community impact assessments, which helped police to understand tensions and concerns.

Neelam engaged with community leaders, members of the community and local residents and identified where there were community vigils organised. Neelam made it her mission to ensure the police were represented and was tenacious in her drive to secure resources to maintain visibility. This step was positively received by the community who appreciated the police visibility and willingness to engage to hear their views, even if the messages were not palatable. Neelam was able to continue to build positive relationships, breakdown barriers and continue to work with the communities to tackle the issues of knife crime and violence.

Lisa Squires, Combatting Sexual Violence
This award celebrates an individual who has made a significant contribution to combatting Sexual Violence through prevention work as well as tackling the harm caused by sexual violence.

In 2019, Libby Squire a 19-year old student was enjoying a night out with friends when she sadly was abducted, raped and brutally murdered. As a parent, Libby’s mother Lisa has experienced the worst event a mother could go through but has devoted her time and energy to trying to ensure that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Lisa is dedicating to raising awareness of sexual predators and their behaviours, helping the police and partner agencies to better manage and investigate these incidents. Alongside this, Lisa spends a significant amount of time talking to students and authorities to help them understand how to better protect themselves, as well as delivering bystanding training. Lisa has been relentless in her endeavours and continues to spend her time working in Libby’s memory and helping others. She has been through the very worse thing but has continued to put her experience to good use.

Nicholas Collins, Community Impact Fundraiser
Despite facing some serious health issues of his own, NicK Collins has walked from Whitstable in Kent to Broad Haven, walking over 1500 miles for over a year in aid of the charity Tommy’s and has raised over £2200 in funds for Tommy’s which is a baby loss charity.

Tommy’s do an extensive amount of work within the Criminal Justice System. Women in prison are 7 times more likely to experience a still birth than those in the general population.

Tommy’s feels that everyone has a right to proper maternity care and are campaigning to change the current practices.

Nick’s achievements are particularly impressive as he was unable to carry his belongings and had to resort to pushing his camping gear around the South Coast of Britain and Wales. He has had his tent wiped out in epic storms, suffered hardships, relying on the kindness of strangers throughout his journey for food. Sadly, due to his health issues, Nick was unable to complete the full walk but his nominator is keen for him to be recognised.

Sue Burke, Contribution to Combatting Domestic Abuse
This award recognises individuals who are operating in the field and who have worked to combat the impact of and the prevalence of domestic abuse. The winner of this award was Sue Burke from MK Act for delivering a high performing service which has a proactive approach to delivery quality.

Sue leads a team that work hard to protect adults and children from domestic abuse with provision of services including places of refuge and working to empower survivors to rebuild their lives, free from violence and abuse.

Sue is described as someone who goes above and beyond for their clients and raises funds outside of their commissioned services to support survivors. Over the last year they have supported over 2000 people. She enhances social justice by raising awareness and supporting campaigns for better laws, policies ad services, and works to mitigate the impact of the harms caused.

Paul Hawken, Lived Experience Award
This was awarded to Paul Hawken who is an individual with lived experience making most contribution to the community he resides within. Paul began his journey with Hope After Harm in November 2022 as a service user under the Ministry of Justice Social Inclusion contract. He had been in custody for a total of 32 years and had just been released into an area that was unknown to him.

Paul volunteers for the New Leaf project within Hope After Harm, giving us a great insight into the challenges that people face when they are released from custody after a significant amount of time. Paul is at the start of his volunteering journey with us and has shaped our volunteer training and played a significant part of strategy planning for the future of the project.

Paul has made a real success of becoming a member of the community, engaging with all of the services offered to him and is now working to support others in a similar position.

Paul has some great ideas for our prevention work with young people. He is an asset to the team and his knowledge and willingness to share his experiences is much appreciated. All of our work within the sector is enriched by people with lived experience who are willing to share that experience with us.

Quote from Nikki Ross, Chief Executive Officer for Hope After Harm said: “There is no doubt that the charity sector is a really tough sector to operate in. The work can be exhausting but the rewards are immense in terms of the people we all support and care so passionately about. We don’t all come together as often as we should but the charities operating in the Thames Valley in this space are incredible and these awards are a shining example of those we are lucky to have within our communities.

“My thanks to our main sponsors for the event – Lloyds Foundation,  Practice to Progress and Urenco.”