It is now 4 days since the awards, and I am still reeling from the presentation to me of a Special Recognition Award at the Pride of Manchester/Britain Awards on Wednesday night at the Kimpton Hotel, Manchester in the company of many celebrities including the TV Presenter host Kim Marsh, together with Christine McGuiness (ex-wife of Paddy McGuiness), and Lisa Nandy MP, who presented me with my award.
When I first heard about the award, I felt some genuine impostor syndrome. I have watched the national awards on the television and always thought they were for non-professional hero human beings who have raised millions for charity, or fought off dangerous criminals and saved lives. I considered myself an odd bedfellow with such outstanding selfless people. To be merely compared with such individuals is a privilege and an honour. I was told by my family that I was talking rubbish, and my wife is always right……
Peter, this one’s for you.— Pride of Britain (@PrideOfBritain) May 10, 2023
Peter’s a lawyer who has dedicated his life and career to achieving justice for victims of child sex abuse.
“He will continue until he gets justice…”
What is an inspiration. 💜 pic.twitter.com/GMLi9FXNAA
My wife and I were chauffeur driven from home in Macclesfield to the event for arrival at 5.30pm. The traffic was horrendous and we were late. Although I have been to these events before, never anything with a red carpet arrival, fans outside waiting for celebrity autographs, and security looking nervous. If you couple that with extra special attention from the Pride of Manchester chaperone, Jane Smallwood, who looked after me perfectly all evening, and Siobhan Hanley of SH Comms the PR company who explored every aspect thoroughly the build up was awesome, no doubt contributing to my nerves.
Once I had grimaced at the flashing cameras, and done a live Pride of Manchester Facebook interview, I relaxed a little and needed a glass of bubbly. There was enough to sink the Titanic. My son-in-law Rob, encouraged me to have another, but my wife told me I should not drink before the presentation. Reluctantly, I put glass number 2 down – I told you she was always right.
After a nice meal of two courses to save time – the awards were meant to be over by 10pm as 2 amazing children were the recipients of awards – the awards started to some razzmatazz. My nerves and anticipation started to build. 9.10pm was the eta according to Jane. Finally it came to my award. I was having trouble controlling my emotions, and didn’t want to wobble onstage. On slightly wobbly legs I approached the stage.
What did I say?
This is the full video extract from You Tube
Kim Marsh was lovely and relaxed. I can’t really remember what I said, but according to the Manchester Evening News the following day
And Peter Garsden, a lawyer who fought for decades to get justice for victims of child sexual abuse, brought home the power of these awards.
“There was something in my guy that said [a client] deserved justice because child abuse is a life sentence,” he told a moved auditorium. “I, as a lawyer, felt there was more to child abuse than cases. There was a need to change the law.”Manchester Evening News 11th May 2023
Then the MEN did a pull out of all the awards, including mine which went as follows
Peter was a young solicitor working in the criminal justice system when one of his clients, a man with a long criminal record, broke down in tears in his office. He told Peter the appalling story of how he had been abused growing up in children’s homes.
Peter recalled: “It was very harrowing. I had a hard-as-nails grown man with a string of convictions against his name sitting in my office and sobbing uncontrollably. “In those early days, I didn’t know how to deal with it. And I was shocked. I hadn’t appreciated that child abuse was rife in children’s homes.”
Peter took up the man’s case, and it took over his life. Over the years, more and more victims came forward, until there were 800 claimants. Finally, 15 years after the first victim sat in his office, Peter won £5 million in damages for the victims.
Since then, Peter, 65, has become a national leader in fighting for justice for victims and founded the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers; representing more than 1,000 victims in 25 cases, and establishing guidelines for helping victims through the legal process. Peter, who has also fostered 18 children with his wife, said: “You don’t do it for the recognition. You do it because its the right thing to do. But its been really hard work – a lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into it. So in that sense it is nice to be recognised.”Manchester Evening News 11th May 2023
I was asked about our fostering of 18 children – my wife afterwards reminded me that it was 25 – but who’s counting? I explained how rewarding it was and told the audience that my wife had written a book about it, “Part of the Family” by Jan Garsden
Before the awards, my wife had suggested that I should mention my diagnosis with Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome in 2019. Her point was that it made it that much more difficult to succeed with such a label. Whilst I am a bit sensitive about disclosing this, I could see the sense in it, and told the PR and Award people. Kim asked me about my diagnosis as her last question. I said:
It was a bit of a shock actually when I was diagnosed in 2019, but I see it as a strength rather than a weakness. I was told that I could not be in a better job because my brain thinks in boxes, and I am able put the overwhelming emotional part of the story in a box and consign it away to the back of my brain, thus allowing me to concentrate on legal aspects and winning the case.
Lisa Nandy MP & Christine McGuiness present my award
Up to this point, I had not received my award. On stage came Lisa Nandy MP and Christine McGuiness, who is, of course, Autistic, and a victim of child abuse, so an obvious choice. I gave her a welcome hug and whispered to her that I saw her documentary, and loved it.
I knew that Lisa was one of the judges who had very much supported my award, so impressed was she with the work I did. She gave a very impassioned speech which I am too modest to repeat, but it was quite emotional. She is a great supporter and I owe her a vote of thanks for her superlative support. She explained to me that she had done some such work in Wigan where she is the local MP.
Christine explained that she didn’t like speaking in public and was reluctant to present the award. I felt sorry for her, having listened to her documentary, and understanding exactly where she was coming from. She posted a video on her Instagram page showing a clip of her rushing off stage. She however commented:-
It’s always a ‘pinch me moment’ to be asked to attend the @prideofbritain Manchester awards, but to actually present an award and share a stage with one of life’s real heroes really was an honour. Congratulations Peter
I am told that I will be able to publish the film done on me for the event, which I will upload when it is ready. They will also do a summary video for You Tube eventually. Again, I will upload it as when it appears.