Sir Charles Pollard

Doctor of Laws


Mr Chancellor

It is a particular pleasure on this occasion to present a Bristol law graduate for an honorary degree.

Sir Charles Pollard is a pre-eminent figure, nationally and internationally, in the policy and practice of policing in contemporary society.

He comes from a family strongly committed to public service. He began his career in the police force at the age of 19, as a constable in the Metropolitan Police, working initially in the challenging environment of the West End.

Charles Pollard undertook the accelerated promotions course at Bramshill Police College. On completion  he was awarded a Bramshill Scholarship, entitling him to pursue a degree course of his choice at any university to which he might  gain admission. At the age of 27 Charles Pollard was a mature student and married.  The story of his entry to university, and of  his experience as an undergraduate, provides some interesting perspectives on admission issues which, as we know only too well, remain as controversial today as they were 30 years ago.

Mr Chancellor,

Cambridge University missed a golden opportunity when it had the temerity to reject Charles Pollard as law student. It just so happened that the Admissions Tutor at Cambridge who conducted the interview had shortly before been prosecuted for speeding. The tutor spent most of the interview berating the hapless candidate with the iniquities of the statutory law on motoring offences, and advocating its replacement by the common law. Unsurprisingly in these adverse circumstances, Charles Pollard did not obtain a place to read law at Cambridge. But Cambridge’s loss was Bristol’s gain. The interview at Bristol was - unsurprisingly -of exemplary fairness. Charles` Pollard came here as an LLB student in 1971. He remembers with both fondness and respect Professors Pettit, Coutts and Hornby. However, it must be said that he was less than impressed with the exposition of police powers provided in the Constitutional Law course here, a defect no doubt subsequently remedied. On the social side, he found positive advantages in being a mature student and furthermore a married one. He found it easy to relate to the younger students, particularly the female ones. Indeed, Lady Pollard reports that the students invited to their home were almost invariably female!

Mr Chancellor,

Having graduated from Bristol with an LLB, Charles Pollard through the 70's and 80's pursued an ever-increasingly successful career in policing in London and Sussex. But it was 1991 which was the truly significant milestone not only for his personal development but also, as it was to prove, for the policy and practice of policing in this country. In 1991 Charles Pollard was appointed Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, a position he held until standing down in 2001. Thames Valley is the largest non-metropolitan force in the country, serving a population in excess of two million. The area, which comprises Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, presents challenges for policing as diverse as the Newbury Bypass protests, Ascot races and Henley regattas, as well as the level of drug activity inevitably to be associated with the proximity of the Thames Valley to London and the West Midlands.

It was in his role as Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police that Charles Pollard made his unique contribution to policing policy and practice, a contribution which has earned him acclaim both nationally and internationally. The extent of youth crime has been a consistent cause for concern over many decades. The appropriate approach to the problem, both in terms  of ideology and practice, has proved highly controversial. During the 1970's the debate swung between the ‘welfare’ and ‘justice’ models, with, at the risk of over-simplification, their respective emphases on social causation and individual responsibility. By the 1980s the scales had come down squarely, in this country as elsewhere, on the side of the justice model. At the time when Charles Pollard took up his appointment in the Thames Valley, the government had given the justice model a particular flavour with policies of zero tolerance on the streets and ‘pin down’ in institutions for young offenders.

Mr Chancellor,

Charles Pollard had a vision of policing policy which went far beyond the crudely retributive objectives and frequently discriminatory application of zero tolerance. His outstanding contribution has been the development of the policy and practice of restorative justice. Restorative justice goes beyond the narrow aims of retribution. It aims to foster individual responsibility by requiring young offenders to acknowledge the consequences of their actions, and to make reparation both to their victims and to the community. Carefully managed face - to face meetings between the young offender, his victim and his family are central to the workings of  restorative justice.

Under the leadership of Charles Pollard, Thames Valley Police pioneered the restorative justice model, which was subsequently adopted throughout the country. Charles Pollard also promoted restorative justice through his membership of the Youth Justice Board, the Justice Research Consortium and the Winchester Restorative Justice Group. Reparation orders became part of the Courts’ sentencing powers in this country in June 2000.

Mr Chancellor,

Charles Pollard has gained international recognition as a pioneer of restorative justice. He has collaborated  with leading criminologists in Australia and North America. He has been a Visiting Fellow at Nuffield College Oxford (at the same time as Dame Brenda Hale, the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate at this ceremony last year and your proposed successor) and is a Reader in Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania. He has an impressive list of scholarly publications on restorative justice which would undoubtedly meet with the approval of the RAE assessors. He was appointed Knight Bachelor in 2001 in recognition of his services to policing and criminal policy.

Since standing down as Chief Constable of the Thames Valley Police, Sir Charles Pollard has generously devoted of his time to the Youth Justice Board. On June 23 this year he was formally appointed as its Acting Chairman by David Blunkett, and the nation hopes that he will be a candidate for the permanent position.

Mr Chancellor,

I present to you Sir Charles Pollard as eminently worthy of the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.

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