Close to my Herts: Lord Charles Cecil

Lord Charles Cecil of Hatfield, the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, tells Louise McEvoy about his role, his aims and life in Hatfield Park

Lord Charles Cecil of Hatfield, the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, tells Louise McEvoy about his role, his aims and life in Hatfield Park

How did you become High Sheriff of Hertfordshire and what does the role involve?

I was nominated by one of my predecessors. I was approved formally by the Queen, who pricks with a bodkin each prospective High Sheriff name on a vellum roll. The High Sheriff is the oldest office under the Crown, dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. I am the Sovereign’s representative in the county for the administration of justice and the maintenance of law and order. The role is voluntary and unpaid. I support and entertain the judges. I liaise with the police and support them and their activities. The High Sheriff is much involved with voluntary organisations in the county.

You set out to focus on organisations and initiatives for the prevention of offending and the rehabilitation and aftercare of offenders. Why was that?

The best gift for victims of crime – apart from knowing the offender has been caught and punished – is to reduce the chances of further crime. This is a proper focus for the High Sheriff. There are many public and voluntary organisations with imaginative schemes to reduce crime and offending of all sorts, by prevention as well as rehabilitation.

What was your aim as High Sheriff?

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I have met some extraordinary people doing wonderful things; it is inspiring and humbling. I want to encourage people and organisations in the public and voluntary sectors and make connections between them. I have been holding some small networking lunches with two to three each from the statutory sector, the voluntary sector and the private sector to discuss schemes to reduce offending and help create employment.

Tell us about youth charity Pro-Action and how you came to be patron.

A few years ago, I was President of the Hertfordshire Association of Young People. This became Pro-Action and I was asked this year to become patron. It is the largest voluntary organisation for the young in Hertfordshire, touching some 40,000 and providing a network of support and training for youth.

Tell us about your professional background.

I have always been in the financial world – banking, investment, investment management and private equity. I have co-founded two successful companies in the financial world.

And your personal background?

I was brought up in Hertfordshire and Dorset. I read history at Oxford University. I have studied and worked in Spain, France, Brazil and Argentina. I come from a large family so it has always been a busy life with lots of friends and relations by the score. My wife gives me a lot of support and is a highly trained acupuncturist.

How do you find life in Hatfield Park?

We live in the house my parents had when they first married. We grow our own vegetables and fruit and have chickens. The garden is a pleasure. We are 20 miles from London, and Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City are on the doorstep, yet we have the glorious park around us. There are lots of activities in the park – fairs, shows, filming, music, exhibitions.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

There doesn’t seem to be much spare time at the moment but I enjoy reading, travelling, country sports and visiting exhibitions and museums.

What do you like about Hertfordshire?

I like the variety of Hertfordshire – everything from the outskirts of London to the deepest and most beautiful countryside. There is a lot of history and some wonderful buildings. Also there is a wide range of people. In fact all human life is in Hertfordshire. As I like meeting all sorts of people, that suits me very well.

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