Four Caithness street pastors commissioned and set to embark on first patrol
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The first four street pastors in Caithness have been commissioned at a special event in Wick and are about to embark on their first patrol.
Alan and Margaret Finch along with Peter Sinclair and Richard Sharp undertook 12 days of training over a 12-week period and officially became street pastors at a ceremony in the Wick Baptist Church last Saturday night.
Mr Finch, who is the co-ordinator of the group, said: "It was a very positive meeting. We had about 30 people there, including a representative from Police Scotland, Thurso Highland councillor Ron Gunn and a pair of street pastors who had come up from Inverness.
"They all gave endorsement and encouragement to our Caithness initiative. Chris Jewel, the chief executive of Ascension Trust Scotland, gave a very good talk about what we are to expect and the experience we would have as street pastors in Caithness."
The Ascension Trust founded the street pastors scheme in 2003 and it now has a presence in more than 20 towns and cities across Scotland and in 282 locations worldwide.
Mr Finch added: "The evening went very well and we are ready for our first engagement this weekend.
"We are all geared up and have got the clothing and the bags with first aid kits, gloves, foil blankets, tissues, water and lollipops if people need an intake of sugar."
The Caithness Street Pastors will be patrolling the town centre area round the bars and nightclub and will be out just hours after the Scottish third round football match between Wick Academy and Falkirk at Harmsworth Park.
"We expect to be busy with a lot of people moving about between midnight and 1am. We will be speaking to people and will give them a chance to engage with us, if required," said Mr Finch, who was a street pastor in Aberdeen for seven years before moving back to Caithness.
The street pastors will be on patrol from about 10pm to after 1am.
They can assist revellers who have drunk too much but also victims of sexual harassment and people with mental health problems. The team will operate in areas where bars and clubs are located as well as in some housing estates to assist anyone in need.
Mr Finch said the volunteers will provide "a beneficial service" for the far north. He hopes that longer term two teams of six volunteers could operate in Wick and Thurso and at events such as music festivals and Highland Games.
Volunteers have to be trained, have to be Christians, belong to a church and be over 18 years of age.
Training is monitored by the trust to ensure quality standards are maintained.