Presided over by HRH The Princess Royal since the Trust’s launch in 1985, the Annual Award Ceremony is the highlight of The Butler Trust’s year and a chance to celebrate the achievements of the inspirational people recognised through the Awards.
33rd Annual Award Ceremony
HRH The Princess Royal hosted the Butler Trust’s 33rd Annual Award Ceremony on 15th March 2018. By gracious permission of Her Majesty the Queen, the event was held at St. James’s Palace in London, the senior Palace of the Sovereign.
The Princess presented 11 Awards and 19 Commendations, and winners came from all four corners of the United Kingdom. Our Chair, Malcolm Butler – grandson of RAB Butler for whom the Trust is named – spoke to the distinguished audience and explained that we were there because of the winners, who he called ‘very special people’.
Guests included the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt. Hon. David Gauke, MP, the Minister of State for Prisons & Probation, Rory Stewart, OBE MP, and the Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Penal Affairs Group (and former Chief Inspector of HM Prisons), Lord Ramsbotham CGB CBE. Also in attendance were the Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service, Colin McConnell, the Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, Ronnie Armour, and the Chief Executive Officer of HMPPS, Michael Spurr. Senior representatives from the staff associations included the National Chair of the Prison Officers’ Association, Mark Fairhurst, the President of the Prison Governors Association, Andrea Albutt, and the General Secretary of NAPO, Ian Lawrence. Other notable guests included football legend and Butler Trust Patron Sir Trevor Brooking CBE, and longstanding supporter (and former Secretary to Sir Winston Churchill), RAB Butler’s niece, Lady Williams of Elvel.
“I am very proud to see the exceptional work of our prison and probation staff recognised at today’s Butler Trust Award ceremony.
Their dedication to a profession that at times can be both challenging and rewarding has helped many people turn their lives around for the better. This vital work – often hidden from view – not only transforms lives, it also benefits society, resulting in fewer victims and safer streets.
I would like to congratulate all the winners on this important and impressive mark of recognition.”
Rory Stewart, Prisons and Probation Minister
The list could go on but, as ever, the real stars of the event were the winners themselves. After another challenging year for the sector, the extraordinary stories behind each winner represent, as The Princess noted, an alternative narrative: people doing extraordinary work but who rarely get the kind of recognition they deserve. That recognition is reflected in the somewhat incredible fact that serving prisoners made over a third of prison nominations.
Gordon Roy of HMP Edinburgh, who was a winner last year, made a speech in which he captured something of the essence of criminal justice work at its best: “ultimately our aim is to be returning a citizen rather than releasing a prisoner.” Another speaker, Angela Murphy of Tomorrow’s Women Wirral, also a winner from the previous year, spoke about their “fabulous year learning from – and sharing ideas with – like-minded people.” She suggested that this year’s winners “be brave, continue to learn, continue to take your work forward, but be open to new ideas – and think big!”
This sense of the pleasure, for winners, of being among like-minded and enthusiastic peers, was particularly apparent. “It’s so nice to be surrounded by so many positive people,” said Rachel O’Connor. Another winner, Chris Munn, added that not only was the experience “really good in terms of feeling valued,” but hearing other winners’ stories was “humbling”. Brian Kirkup agreed: “I’ve loved every minute. I feel privileged to be nominated and to be among so many other amazing people who have been nominated.”
Another common theme is the wider impact of the Awards to the teams, and often the offenders themselves (whether nominating or adding testimonials), behind the winners. Award Winner Angela Auty said she “couldn’t have done it without my team, and after 37 years it’s such a validation – not only for my work but for all front line workers.” Tressa Vaill added that “it was humbling to just be nominated, but the men [the prisoners] were so happy!” Paul Johnson, resplendent in his Number 1 uniform, and sporting the row of medals he received as a military man prior to joining the prison service, added how important the Butler Trust Awards were for conveying a sense that “the men feel they are being listened to.”
Among many outstanding stories, two women from HMP/YOI Styal women’s prison were notable.
Both volunteers, Paulette Staniec and Eileen Whittaker, have astonishing stories to tell. Paulette’s started with one woman struggling to find dignity with just one pair of knickers which she washed early each morning – and has reached a chapter where there is now a shop and a knitting group for vulnerable women.
Eileen has achieved more than most people, working on a voluntary basis, in transforming counselling for both prisoners and staff at Styal. Styal’s Governing Governor, Mahala McGuffie, was also present at the Ceremony and, obviously, enormously pleased at their reflection on Styal as a community.
Eileen was also the winner of this year’s HRH The Princess Royal’s Prize for Outstanding Achievement, awarded annually to the most impressive nominee each year. A tightly held secret, the winner learns during the Ceremony itself that they have won. There was an audible gasp from Eileen when her name was announced.
It’s a characteristic of most winners that they describe themselves as “just doing the job” or similar – while clearly being rather more than that. Eileen encapsulated this attitude of humility with a remark she made during afternoon tea in the Queen Anne Room and Entrée Room after the Ceremony. “There’s a sign up at Styal you see on the way out. It says ‘Thank you for making a difference.’ And today, I felt I did.”
High res versions of the above images can be downloaded by clicking on the relevant image.
Pictures of this years winners receiving their Awards and Commendations can be downloaded here.