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Charities across Northamptonshire have received a much-needed financial boost thanks to an initiative set up by the Resident Judge at Northampton Crown Court.
Since 2021, Northampton Crown Court has donated more than £45,000 to five charities in the county, using money which has been seized by Northamptonshire Police during investigations into criminal activities.
At the conclusion of the court sentencing hearing, the presiding judge has the power to make a forfeiture application under Section 27 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, for seized money to be redirected to charity.
The idea was adopted by the county’s four full-time crown court judges following the success of the project at Aylesbury Crown Court in Buckinghamshire, which was set up by the court’s Resident Judge HHJ Francis Sheridan and which has so far donated more than £100,000 to Guide Dogs UK.
In Northamptonshire, the scheme aims to provide a donation of at least £10,000 to nominated charities, which have so far included Home Start in Daventry, The Good Loaf in Northampton, Service Six and the Daylight Centre, both in Wellingborough.
Child Bereavement UK is the latest charity to be supported by the judges, and since this January, the charity, which supports bereaved children and young people, has received more than £2,000 in funds.
His Honour Judge Rupert Mayo, who is also a Deputy Lieutenant of Northamptonshire, said: “All the forfeited monies which have been donated to the charities have been identified as being connected to drug offending in the county.
“We see daily in our courtrooms the detrimental affect drugs can have on our communities. However, forfeiture applications enable us to redirect some of the ill-gotten gains from drug offending to help support the most vulnerable members of our society.
“We also get to hear of all the good work being carried out across the county by various charities and organisations. From the feedback we have received from those who have received diverted funds, we know that £10,000 can go a long way to help.
“Although it may not matter to the defendants at the time of sentencing, I hope in time that they reflect on the court’s decision and eventually can see what a real difference it has made to others.”
The scheme is supported by Northamptonshire Police, and Financial Investigation Manager Suzanne Lyon, added: “The Financial Investigation Unit has many ways to deprive criminals, with seizing money earned through their illegal activities being one of them.
“We are more than happy to support this initiative and have seen first-hand how the forfeited funds have helped the charities to provide much-needed support and services to some of the most vulnerable people in our local communities.”
The Daylight Centre Fellowship in Wellingborough is a registered charity which prepares adults impacted by homelessness, poverty, and social exclusion for healthier, happier, independent, and purposeful futures.
Chief executive Carina Fisher said: “We are so grateful to Northampton Crown Court for supporting us financially in what is an exceptionally difficult time for charities.
“Daily we are dealing with the causes and effects of crime and the demand for our services is greater than ever. It is so fitting that the money is being put to good use, in complete contrast to its original harmful intentions."
Service Six is an award-winning Wellingborough-based charity, committed to changing lives and creating futures for vulnerable children, young people, and their families.
Chief executive Claudia Slabon MA ILM explains how the crown court initiative has helped the charity. She said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been awarded money through this initiative, which contributes towards our invaluable work with children and young people who live in those communities affected by criminal activities.
“This charity donation scheme is a real opportunity to maximise existing services and make sure that together we are reaching the most vulnerable members of our communities. They are the real winners of this donation.”
The Good Loaf is a social enterprise which was set up in Northampton to provide employment opportunities to vulnerable women and break the cycle of poverty, unemployment, and offending.
Chief executive Suzy Van Rooyen explains how the crown court fund has been especially appreciated in this economic climate when things have been so difficult for everyone.
She said: “The donation has enabled us to provide practical support to women in our community so they can believe in themselves and realise a brighter tomorrow.
"We are committed to helping people recognise their value, their place, and their contribution to society and to realise that pasts don’t determine futures although things may have been difficult, and mistakes have been made.”
The court will always consider any registered charity which directly benefits the community in Northamptonshire.