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Bradford court witness manager retires after 40 years
A Court manager, who was awarded the MBE for her work to help victims and witnesses of crime, is retiring after a 40-year career.
But Valerie Watson is not resting on her laurels, after accepting a voluntary role with the police helping bereaved families.
Mrs Watson, 59, began her career with the Courts Service in 1970 and was promoted to the role of clerical officer three years later.
She worked as an executive officer and court manager for the county courts, including at Keighley , for three decades until making a life-changing career move in 2002, at the same time as the sudden death of her husband Chris, 45.
Mrs Watson said: “I was asked to move to the crown court at Bradford, going from civil to criminal cases, which I knew nothing about.
“It was a big change in my life, but it gave me something to work on after the death of my husband, and I threw myself into my new job.”
Mrs Watson was given the additional role of witness liaison officer, where she organised special measures for witnesses, including screens and TV links for giving evidence, and forged links with other agencies, like the Crown Prosecution Service and Victim Support, to help victims and witnesses to play their parts in the criminal justice system.
She said: “At the time I thought they were getting a raw deal, nobody took much notice of them. We put things in place so they knew what was expected of them when they came to court. It helps to provide justice – without witnesses we have no cases.”
Her work earned her a national Criminal Justice Award in 2009 and last year she was honoured with the MBE, presented to her by the Prince of Wales.
Mrs Watson, who lives with her daughter, Jaime, at Utley, near Keighley, said she was proud of what she had achieved.
“I hope that my legacy is that victims and witnesses are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve from the criminal justice system.”
When she retires later this month she will work as a volunteer with West Yorkshire Police's Major Collision Enquiry Team, helping bereaved families in cases of death by dangerous driving.
She is also planning to have long walks with her new bearded collie puppy.