The House of Lords was the suitably distinguished venue for this year’s CTSI Hero Awards on 23 November. As boats drifted along the Thames in the sunshine outside the window of the Cholmondeley Room, guests were inspired, moved and humbled by the stories of hard work, dedication and sacrifice displayed by each of the award winners.
From tackling modern slavery and dangerous products to fighting against scammers, the actions of every single winner have improved people’s lives and kept the public safe up and down the UK.
Following introductory remarks from CTSI President Lord Jamie Lindsay and Chair Tendy Lindsay, and a speech on recent developments in toy safety from sponsor the British Toy and Hobby Association’s Jerry Burnie, host Liz Barclay took to the stage to get the award presentations underway.
First up were Slough Borough Council Trading Standards team members Russell Denney-Clarke, Jaspal Singh and Dean Cooke, who collected the Diversity and Inclusion Award for their work in addressing modern slavery in hand car washes. This involved engagement with businesses and education about what it means to operate within the law.
Also recognised for his work to promote Diversity and Inclusion was Westminster Trading Standards’ Giles Speid, whose Ubuntu mentoring project was highly commended for breaking down barriers and encouraging Trading Standards professionals to have open, honest and sometimes difficult conversations about race and other social issues.
Speid said: “I’m thankful to the volunteers, the mentors and mentees – it’s them who make the difference. It’s great to be recognised but I’m more pleased that CTSI and ACTSO are backing the project. Without them, it’s not possible to bring about change.”
The next deserving winner was Salford Trading Standards’ Marsha Bell, who was awarded the Best Product Safety Initiative accolade. Bell’s citation was an impressive list of achievements, from setting up a multi-agency working group to tackle intellectual property crime and other regulatory non-compliance in Salford, to seizing thousands of counterfeit and potentially dangerous goods.
In 2021 alone she seized more than 15,000 products for infringing registered Trade Marks and in March 2022 Bell’s efforts secured a conviction against a company that was found to be producing and distributing counterfeit products including e-liquids and electrical products.
Bell was clearly keen not to rest on her laurels; she commented after the ceremony: “To get this recognition is really special; we’ve got some momentum going in Salford, and we need to keep pushing.”
Bell’s constituency MP, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said she came to the Hero Awards “to support Marsha, who won an amazing award. In Salford and Greater Manchester the amount of effort and work she’s done is absolutely phenomenal, and the amount of lives that she’s protected is off the scale. We are proud as a city for all the work that she’s done, and that she’ll continue to do.”
Highly commended in the Best Product Safety Initiative category was Hillingdon Trading Standards’ Phil Jenkins, who was praised for his strong work ethic in his approach to seizing non-compliant and oversized vapes at Heathrow Airport. In his citation, it was noted that Jenkins’s work “has potentially not only saved lives, but has made a dent in this illegal and damaging trade”.
The Outstanding Trading Standards Project Award went to Operation June, an awareness campaign developed by Lincolnshire County Council Trading Standards to highlight the dangers of illicit cigarettes.
The campaign was developed to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Lincolnshire resident June Buffham, who died in a house fire believed to have been started by an illicit cigarette that failed to extinguish. Since the tragedy June’s daughter, Julie Grant, has campaigned tirelessly to highlight the specific dangers of smoking illicit cigarettes while working with Trading Standards in Lincolnshire and beyond.
An emotional Julie Grant took to the stage with Lincolnshire Trading Standards’ Emma Milligan and Chris O’Rourke to collect the award.
The Offensive Weapons Act Working Group was highly commended in the Outstanding Trading Standards Project category for its work to educate businesses in good practice and developing cross-agency partnerships that can help all knife sellers improve compliance and to trade responsibly. Hammersmith and Fulham Trading Standards’ Doug Love collected the award as a representative of the Working Group.
Also highly commended in the Outstanding Trading Standards Project category was Julie Langman, who joined Bromley Trading Standards in 2010 following a career in the police. From the start, Langman demonstrated a high level of investigative skill and determination and, in the view of her colleagues, she is one of the best investigators of doorstep crime in London, if not the UK.
Langman’s constituency MP Sir Robert Neill, who attended the ceremony, commented: “It’s right that we should recognise the work that Julie has done in dealing with various scams in the borough, and the exceptional number of prosecutions and seizures that have been brought as a result. It’s about protecting the public, and about protecting the vulnerable.”
Next, Steve Smith from trueCall presented the CTSI Brian Smith Hero Award to Reg Burrell.
The award is named after the late Brian Smith, whose passion for safeguarding vulnerable consumers improved many people’s lives. Burrell was recognised for his tireless work to develop an ever-evolving initiative which goes to the heart of consumer protection, safeguarding elderly and vulnerable people against scams, doorstep criminals and distraction burglary. His citation said that Burrell “believes education is the key to prevention and with decreasing resources across Trading Standards, putting the effort into preventing crime in the first place is far more beneficial than dealing with the aftermath.”
Louise Baxter from The National Trading Standards Friends Against Scams Team took to the stage next to present one of the most coveted awards of the day: the Trading Standards Hero Award.
The Award deservedly went to Trading Standards Northern Ireland Lead Officer for Doorstep Crime and Scams, Alison Gilchrist. Her citation described her as “an inspiring, caring and devoted colleague who has worked tirelessly to protect victims of doorstep crime and scams”. Her efforts have resulted in savings for scam victims of more than £1m.
In one recent case, The Trading Standards Service was contacted late on a Friday afternoon by a very emotional and distressed individual who had been scammed out of a large sum of money by cryptocurrency fraudsters. The individual indicated that he was in despair and had been contemplating taking his own life. Gilchrist spent many hours with the victim and, in conjunction with the Police Service for Northern Ireland, was able to console, comfort and support him through an incredibly difficult moment. As a result of her support, the victim is now pursuing redress from his bank with continued assistance from the service and he no longer feels that he has to face this problem on his own.
CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: “Alison is an inspiring, caring and devoted Trading Standards colleague who has worked tirelessly to protect victims of doorstep crime and scams.
“Alison continues to raise awareness of scams and doorstep and participate in national and regional prevention activities, such as the ‘Friends Against Scams’ campaign, which includes information on doorstep crime. She responds immediately to any complaints concerning doorstep crime that are brought to her attention.
“Alison was described in a letter of commendation from a member of the public as being ‘small in stature but huge of heart’. The great lengths she goes to in order to help those in difficulties has to be admired. She is a true hero.”
Also in the Trading Standards Hero category, a special Lifetime Achievement Award went to Ray Moore from Southwark Trading Standards. His citation noted that he is “a consummate professional and he has never lost his drive for fairness and tackling inequality. He has helped so many Trading Standards colleagues forge successful careers and become valued members of the profession.”
The Intellectual Property Award, which recognises individuals or groups who have worked on a project to combat intellectual property fraud, went to The Real Deal initiative, which provides a collaborative support mechanism for Trading Standards and businesses to work together to protect consumers and legitimate businesses from the sale of IP infringing articles.
Gavin Terry, CTSI Lead Officer for IP and Vice Chair of the National Markets Group, collected the award.
Still in the Intellectual Property Award category, the WRi Group was highly commended for its continuous support to the Trading Standards profession.
Simon Calder won the Best Consumer Protection Journalist award for 2022 in recognition of his campaigning during the COVID-19 pandemic to help consumers get redress at a difficult time.
The final award of the afternoon was The Institute Hero Award, which went to the Hajj Project. The project adopted a two-pronged approach to tackle Hajj-related scams: firstly, siting a ‘consultation bus’ outside selected mosques during Friday (Jummah) prayers over a five-week period to provide Trading Standards and health and safety information to mosque-goers; and secondly, visiting premises known or registered to provide Hajj travel packages with a checklist to ensure compliance with package travel regulations.
A major Hajj fraud case in 2008 in London’s East End, in which almost £1m was defrauded from about 700 victims, was the catalyst for the Hajj Project, which was initiated originally in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in 2010. It was introduced in the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham for the first time in 2022. Nazir Ali from the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham collected the award.
Ceremony host Liz Barclay, who previously worked as a journalist and broadcaster and now serves as the UK’s Small Business Commissioner, said: “All of the winners are worth celebrating. I have read each citation several times and there are a couple that would bring a tear to a glass eye. These are extremely driven people who are constantly willing to go above and beyond in order to protect consumers, not just on their patch, but around the UK.”
In closing, John Herriman commented: “The CTSI Hero Awards are a fantastic opportunity to celebrate remarkable individuals or groups of people who make outstanding contributions towards safeguarding vulnerable consumers in our communities. Every year, we are inspired by the stories of nominees throughout the country whose bravery, altruism and hard work often goes unnoticed. These awards honour those remarkable people who have gone the extra mile for consumers.”
CTSI would like to thank the sponsors of the 2022 Hero Awards, without whom the event would not have been possible.