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Tuesday 19 July 2005


Professor Herschel Prins

Public Orator, Professor Graham Farrell presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Ceremony held on Tuesday 19 July 2005 at 10.30am

Chancellor, Senior Pro-Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor, Treasurer, Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Chakrabarti, Ladies and Gentlemen and Graduands.

Were he less modest, Professor Herschel Prins could properly claim to be influential in the development of criminology and forensic psychiatry in Britain. He has spent a professional lifetime among psychopaths, arsonists, sexual deviants and people behaving bizarrely and dangerously. He persists in seeking to improve society’s treatment of mentally disordered offender-patients.

Professor Prins began his career as a probation officer in 1952, soon collaborating with Donald West, subsequently Director of the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge University, in the assessment of offenders at the Stamford House Remand Home. In fifty-three professionally active years to date, he has worked at the Home Office and as Director of the School of Social Work at Leicester University. He has been visiting professor at Leicester and Nottingham Trent Universities and holds an honorary chair at Birmingham University. Yet Loughborough claims him as its own. He officially retired in 1984. Yet he has contributed to our Masters Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice for the last fifteen years. Recent student evaluations show he remains the most popular lecturer on that course. He submitted a full slate of publications to our latest national Research and Assessment Exercise and his eleventh book ‘Offenders, Deviants or Patients?’ was published earlier this year. After around 200 published works, his output shows no sign of slowing. We celebrate also his capacity to nurture the careers of others as well as his personal humour and warmth, and welcome to Loughborough today his wife of 44 years, Norma, and their family.

Professor Prins’ service to his profession includes serving on the Parole Board, the Mental Health Review Tribunal and the Mental Health Act Commission. He chaired the Mental Health Advisory Committee of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, and three enquiries into the deaths or absconsion of offender-patients. He is currently on the editorial board of six academic and professional journals. An indicator of esteem by academic peers was the publication by colleagues of a tribute book in 1999 entitled ‘Mentally Disordered Offenders: Managing People Nobody Owns’. An indicator of the esteem of mental health professionals was the 2001 opening of an eponymous treatment centre for patients who committed crime as the result of mental illness. At Glenfield Hospital, the Herschel Prins Centre Low Secure Unit is the first such facility here in Leicestershire, allowing patients to be closer to family and friends.

Perhaps the enduring theme of his work has been the practicality of its focus, while never forgetting that each mentally disordered offender represents a personal and family tragedy, which must be dealt with humanely. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the mark of a civilisation is how it treats those over whom it has power. This is a philosophy which informs Herschel Prins’ work, and with which the University is proud to be associated.

Therefore, Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you, and to the whole University, Professor Herschel Prins for the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.


Loughborough University - Degree Speeches 2005, July 2005
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