A new service, providing support to defendants and their families and friends, was officially launched at Newcastle Crown Court on Monday 30 October 2017.
The Nepacs’ project, which was set up initially at Teesside Crown Court in July 2013 and then extended to Durham Crown Court in May 2015, provides much-needed support and information to families or friends who attend court to support a loved one facing a custodial sentence.
The ‘Support at Courts’ service has been funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation since 2013 and thanks to additional funding from a number of generous donors (including Joseph Brough Charitable Trust and The Beatrice Lang Trust) Nepacs’ staff and volunteers have been able to extend the project to Newcastle Crown Court.
Jim Black, Nepacs’ chair officially launched the Newcastle service on behalf of the charity’s Board of Trustees at the event on Monday 30 October, with the full support of HH Judge Sloan QC The Recorder of Newcastle and staff at Newcastle Crown Court.
Support is offered to families attending the three Crown Courts by a team of volunteers, under the leadership of the Nepacs’ support at courts coordinator, Jane Leak and project officer, Pauline Fogg.
The volunteers are available within the courts offering emotional and practical support and information, and continued support outside of court through a telephone support service.
Last year the courts teams in Teesside and Durham supported over 1,700 defendants’ families and friends. To date the new service at Newcastle Crown Court, provided by a team of newly trained volunteers, has offered support to over 246 families and over 17 information packs have been given out, and the Newcastle team are hoping to offer support to over 1,200 families in its first year.
Mrs Susan Winfield OBE, Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear said: "Nepacs’ staff and volunteers provide an important service to families and individuals in an unfamiliar and formal setting which can be very daunting at such a difficult time. I am delighted that this service is now available at Newcastle Crown Court and that so many more people will get the extra support they need."
Helen Attewell, Nepacs’ chief executive, said: “We are delighted to have launched this service at Newcastle Crown Court, thanks to the additional funding generously donated, as it will enable us to offer support to even more families going through a very difficult time.
“Every year thousands of families experience court proceedings and the impact of a custodial sentence despite never having being involved in or committed a crime. From the moment of arrest and throughout the court process families are at risk of social isolation and stigma which can affect their emotional, physical, financial and social wellbeing.
“For those families who are unfamiliar with the judicial system or who are unprepared this can be a distressing time. Our dedicated team on the ground offer a listening ear, a helping hand and friendly support to help make things a little easier.”
The team are always recruiting new volunteers who would be willing to give up a few hours of their time to support this worthwhile project.
Jane Leak, Nepacs’ support at court coordinator, added: “We are looking for volunteers who may have travelled a similar journey, or have relevant skills or experience, and who can offer genuine understanding, empathy and emotional support. Volunteering with families and making a difference can be very rewarding and can also provide you with valuable training and experience.”
If you are a family experiencing similar issues and would like to talk to someone please get in touch with Nepacs’ telephone support service. This service is available Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 1pm to 4pm by contacting 07854 594012 or 07774 385276. Text or leave a message and the Nepacs’ team will call you back.
If you are interested in volunteering with Nepacs’ courts project in Newcastle, Durham or Teesside please get in touch with Jane Leak at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website www.nepacs.co.uk to find out more.