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‘Life-changing year’ for outgoing High Sheriff of Rutland

Outgoing High Sheriff of Rutland Dr Sarah Furness hands over to 2017/18 High Sheriff Craig Mitchell'Photo: Lee Hellwing
Outgoing High Sheriff of Rutland Dr Sarah Furness hands over to 2017/18 High Sheriff Craig Mitchell'Photo: Lee Hellwing

Former High Sheriff of Rutland Dr Sarah Furness has revealed she is a changed person following her “amazing” year in office.

Dr Furness, who handed over the High Sheriff’s badge to her successor Craig Mitchell at a ceremony at Oakham Castle, says she has a more positive view of the world after meeting thousands of wonderful Rutland people from all walks of life and of all ages during her year in office.

She told the Mercury: “I have had the most amazing year. It has been an eye opener to see just how much good is done by people in the community.

“In Rutland we enjoy a level of stability and happiness that is in contrast to a view of the world sometimes presented in the national news.

“I feel so much more positive after what I have seen in the last year.”

Dr Furness, from Whissendine, a doctor of philosopy, told an audience at the High Sheriff declaration ceremony she had visited every school and every care home in the county during her year in office, as well as people working for the police, the fire service, prisons, the courts and in the voluntary sector.

In total, she attended more than 300 events and devised and organised 11 herself.

She says she wanted the role of High Sheriff to be one that most people knew about.

To this end, the Hue and Cry event in May, which resurrected the High Sheriff’s ancient right to raise a group to catch criminals was fun for all and introduced the office to the 3,000 people who attended.

Dr Furness has been pleased with the success of several initatives during her year in office.

These have included introducing Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training to all 15-year-olds across Rutland and a series of mock trials run by magistrates in primary and secondary schools.

Dr Furness also helped promote special training for teachers.

She said: “I have been horrified to learn how childhood has changed since my daughter was at school. The presence of the internet, the breakdown of family life and the increase of academic pressures, have meant that mental health is now a major issue.

“I have been pleased to play a part as High Sheriff in championing, with Ann Williams, resilience training for teachers in schools.”

Thousands of pounds were raised for good causes during Dr Furness’s term, although she says this was not her principal objective.

She said: “My aims have been to reach out to as many people as possible from as wide an age range and background as possible, to do some good and following from that to raise some money for charities. I do not want to be judged on the amount I have raised. However, I am pleased that overall I have raised in excess of £22,000.”

Four charities were presented with cheques at the ceremony – Warning Zone, Hope Against Cancer, For Rutland, and Knight School .

Dr Furness also handed out 11 personal awards.

Before presenting them she said: “ What has been most striking for me this year is to realise just what a very, very special place Rutland is.

“We should all be very proud of it. There are people working for the good of all everywhere across the county. People in paid jobs regularly go that extra mile – I am thinking particularly of teachers, policemen, care workers and others.

“We have over 300 voluntary organisations in Rutland. What gets done - and gets done voluntarily and without pay - is amazing.”

A party has already been held when 18 awards were presented to serving Rutland magistrates, whose unpaid work is often taken for granted, said Dr Furness.

l Next week: Meet the new High Sheriff of Rutland, Craig Mitchell


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