Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Royal visit to Huntercombe prison

PRINCESS Anne visited HMP Huntercombe to congratulate two staff who have won awards.

PRINCESS Anne visited HMP Huntercombe to congratulate two staff who have won awards.

The Princess Royal, who is patron of prison workers' charity the Butler Trust, arrived in a black Range Rover on Monday afternoon.

She was wearing a long, green woollen overcoat which was fastened with a pin bearing the trust's logo, a beige scarf and dark suede boots.

Marion Stevenson, the deputy lieutenant of Oxfordshire, and prison governor Laura Sapwell were there to greet her.

Also present were former England footballer Sir Trevor Brooking, who is a trustee of the charity, and its director Simon Shepherd.

They accompanied the royal visitor on an hour-long tour of the prison in Nuffield, which houses 430 category C inmates from other countries.

They first met instructor Ali Joubert, who has won a Butler Trust commendation for her work in the prison garden.

The 45-year-old runs a City and Guilds gardening course for up to 24 prisoners and teaches them to grow herbs and vegetables which they can include in their meals.

She recently designed a new outdoor seating area for staff and built it with her students' help.

Mrs Joubert, who has worked at Huntercombe for almost a decade, grew up near Nuffield and still lives in the area. She said: "The princess was lovely; she was very pleasant and down-to-earth.

"She wanted to know all about the different vegetables we were growing and was glad to hear that the men have access to fresh produce. She was also really interested in our wormery."�

Mrs Joubert will collect her certificate from St James' Palace next month.

She said: "I was amazed when I heard about the award but really I'm just doing my job. I love being outdoors " I'm a born and bred country girl and I'm not scared of getting my hands dirty.

"I love the diversity of working in this environment. You hear so many people's life stories and it's a real eye-opener. The prisoners really enjoy the sense of freedom they get from being outdoors and taking ownership of their patch. I treat them with the same respect that I'd expect."�

The princess then met Andrew Small, head of PE, who won the trust's Princess Royal Prize for outstanding achievement last year.

Mr Small, 44, teaches inmates to become qualified personal trainers so they can encourage others to exercise.

As a result, 90 per cent of inmates use the prison gym compared with the national average of 52 per cent. Mr Small said: "It's so lovely for the Princess Royal to come to our workplace. It's humbling that someone of such high stature wants to come and see what we do.

"She was very interested and incredibly knowledgeable about prisons and prisoners. She spent at least 10 minutes talking about what we do in great depth. She was very open, honest and approachable. She talked to everyone, including the prisoners, and genuinely cared about what they thought."�

After the tour, there was a reception for the princess, where she spoke to about 80 staff in small groups and stayed for about half an hour. Sir Trevor said: "It has been a great day. Her Royal Highness takes a keen interest on visits like this and knows the subject inside out.

"People are always surprised by how in-depth her questions are. She wants to get to know each person and find out more about the challenges they face.

"Prisons only seem to get publicity when there are problems and it's a shame most people don't hear about the brilliant work that staff carry out on the rehabilitation side of things.

"It's easy to be a critic when you're standing on the outside."� Mrs Sapwell said: "I would like to sincerely thank the Princess Royal for spending the afternoon with us.

"We have a great deal of skill and experience among our staff and it's an honour to be able to show that off.

"Andrew is an absolute credit to the PE department " his innovative approach has built excellent links with the prisoners.

"Ali works hard, is creative and genuinely cares about the men. She listens to them and makes a massive difference to their lives."�

HMP Huntercombe opened in 1946 and was a young offenders institute until 2010, when it became an adult male prison.

It switched to housing exclusively foreign nationals two years later.

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