St Hugh’s Principal presented with Life-Time Achievement Award
We are proud to announce that St Hugh’s Principal, Lady Elish Angiolini has been presented with The Herald’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” for her outstanding contribution to public life. Lady Elish received the award at The Herald Scottish Politician of the Year Awards on Thursday 24 November.
Before presenting the award, the Editor of The Herald, Catherine Salmond gave this poignant speech: ‘The Lifetime Achievement Award is special. It isn’t presented every year. It is only given to mark an outstanding contribution to public life. For a history of service above and beyond the call of duty throughout a person’s career.
‘There have been 12 winners since 1999, including two of the Scottish Parliament’s presiding officers, Sir David Steel and Sir George Reid, and its first clerk, Sir Paul Grice. Gordon Brown and Ming Campbell have also been recognised in this category. This year the judges were unanimous in wanting to present the award to a hugely deserving recipient. She was there at the outset of devolution, rose to prominence in its early years, and has had a far-reaching influence ever since.
‘The daughter of a Govan coal merchant, she was inspired to enter the law by her experience giving evidence in a trial as a teenager. Rather than being awed by the formalities and the gowns, she was struck by how little attention seemed to be given to the witnesses and the accused, who seemed “irrelevant”. That concern for victims as well as those on the receiving end of the justice system has been a constant thread throughout her career.
‘After completing her legal studies at the University of Strathclyde, she joined the Crown Office and trained as a procurator fiscal. While she was a trainee, she was a passenger on the Glasgow-Edinburgh train which derailed at Polmont junction in 1984. Nine of the 13 people who died in the accident were travelling in the same carriage. Two of them were sitting next to her. She later said it left her determined to make the most of every day that followed. There is no doubt that she did just that.
‘After eight years as a Fiscal in Airdrie, she moved to the Crown Office in Edinburgh and worked on improving support to vulnerable victims and witnesses, especially children. By 1997 she was head of policy and helped get the department ready for devolution. She was involved in preparing the 1998 Scotland Act on which Holyrood is founded.
‘After becoming the first woman to serve as the Regional Procurator Fiscal in Aberdeen in the year 2000, she became the first woman to serve as Solicitor General a year later, and the first female Lord Advocate in 2006. When the SNP entered power, she also became the first Lord Advocate to serve two governments of different political complexions, such was the high regard in which she was held. As Lord Advocate, she was an unabashed moderniser, ensuring support for youth courts, Glasgow’s domestic abuse court and drugs courts. She also rolled out a victims’ rights pilot she had started in Aberdeen. It supported victims through the courts, making sure they weren’t traumatised a second time by the system itself.
‘Since standing down as Lord Advocate in 2011, she has been ceaseless in her efforts to improve the justice system, bringing an unflinching gaze to the toughest of subjects. She has conducted investigations into the Mortonhall cremation scandal, the prosecution of rape, deaths in police custody, and the handling of complaints against police officers. She is currently leading the independent inquiry into the murder of Sarah Everard by the off-duty Metropolitan Police Officer Wayne Couzens.
‘In her free moments, she has also been a trustee of several justice charities, and is Principal of St Hugh’s College, Oxford, and a Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. Appointed a Dame [Commander of the British Empire] for the administration of justice a decade ago, she was recently named a Lady of the Order of the Thistle by the late Queen.
‘The judges felt – and I’m sure you’ll agree – that hers has been a career remarkable in its scope and intensity. Her willingness to take on so many formidable challenges is awe-inspiring.
Ladies and gentlemen, the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award is Lady Elish Angiolini.’
On accepting the award, Lady Elish said: ‘I am so grateful and honoured to receive this wonderful award.
‘Lawyers and former civil servants are not always valued or praised but it has been a tremendous privilege to have served with so many brilliant and good people in this country who are absolutely dedicated to social justice and the public interest. This award is for them.
‘I am a product of a very loving and stable family and acutely aware that many of those in our prisons have not had that wonderful start in life. I hope we can all work hard to give our kids the chance to fly.’