The Longford Trust
As a young don in Oxford my father Lord Longford, Frank Longford, (1905-2001) was already interested in prisons. He was in the process of converting to Catholicism and very struck by the Christian message: Hate the sin but love the sinner. This remained the foundation for all his subsequent work with prisoners and other people who he felt were ill-served by society. He never condoned criminal actions but always believed in the possibility of change, however hardened the criminal. This approach led to his support for the child murderer, Myra Hindley which drew on him so much criticism. Happily, there was a more sympathetic portrayal of his beliefs in the 2007 award-winning TV film Longford.
Yet Hindley was only one of hundreds of men and women my father tried to help over the years. Even as a child, I grew used to the kind of sad cases he befriended, although I couldn’t quite understand it. Now, in my own contact with prisons and prisoners I often come across people who remember my father with enormous and personal gratitude and affection. To him, everybody was equal in the eyes of God and therefore also to him. He set a great example.
After my father’s death, family and friends decided to set up a trust in his memory. This organises an annual lecture. Speakers include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Will Self, Nils Oberg, Director of the Swedish Prison Service who gave us a picture of a very different sort of Prison system, Michael Palin, George the Poet. In 2022 Mina Smallman, two of whose daughters were murdered made a plea for early intervention and forgiveness. The lecture evening includes prizes for those working in the field of social or penal reform.
The Trust also set up a series of scholarship awards for prisons and ex-prisoners who want to study up to higher education. Since the scheme started in 2004, there have been 300 Longford Scholars of whom 80% have obtained degrees.
If you want to know more, the address is: www.longfordtrust.org