Police chief’s farewell to group

Chief Constable Jon Stoddart receives a retirement present from Tia Shepherd, 10 and  Coun Dennis Maddison.
Chief Constable Jon Stoddart receives a retirement present from Tia Shepherd, 10 and Coun Dennis Maddison.

A YOUTH group received one last visit from a police chief who has supported its hard work in tackling anti-social behaviour before he retires from his 30-year career.

Durham Police’s Chief Constable Jon Stoddart was at the Centre Field Pavilion Cafe, in Horden, where he bid farewell to the many youngsters he has grown to know since the cafe’s youth project was set up two years ago.

The popular sessions at the Sunderland Road-based venue have attracted scores of young people and have helped to drive down yobbish behaviour in Horden.

Mr Stoddart, who retires next month, has built a close relationship with the group and made his sixth visit to see them on Wednesday.

Councillor Dennis Maddison, Horden’s representative on Durham County Council, who is involved in the group, said: “Mr Stoddart has supported us from day one and the kids absolutely love him to bits.

“It’s a shame he is moving on, but he said he is still going to support us and will come back even when he is retired.”

The group presented Mr Stoddart with a plaque which said: “Thank you for all your help, from The Pavilion Cafe.”

Mr Stoddart spent two hours at the venue, watching the youngsters play football and even had a game of pool with one of the girls.

The 53-year-old has supported the scheme in various ways over the years, including securing a £1,000 donation from the force’s motorcycle squad to ensure an extra youth session can run.

Coun Maddison said Mr Stoddart was particularly impressed with the atmosphere at the pavilion and the way sessions were run, with youngsters having a lot of respect for their surroundings.

He said he has added a further £5,000 from his East Durham Area Action Partnership (AAP) budget to allow the Monday and Wednesday youth nights, which run from 5-8pm, to continue for another year.

Inspector Dave Coxon, of Peterlee Police, who was also present during Mr Stoddart’s visit, said: “Mr Stoddart has had a long-standing affinity with the group.

“It’s great that the local community can see how important these sort of initiatives are to us even at the highest levels of Durham Constabulary and how the Executive want to show continued support.”