A ROYAL visitor was in Darlington on Wednesday to celebrate the achievements of the borough’s youth offending service.

HRH The Princess Royal met staff, police officers and civic dignitaries at the Gladstone Street office to hear first-hand about the team’s work.

Earlier in the year youth offending service manager Jo Benson received an award from the Butler Trust, of which Princess Anne is a patron, and the service was described by the trust as one of the best in the country.

Ms Benson and her team have helped lower rates of reoffending and reduced court and custody appearances by youngsters by focusing on early intervention and tailoring support to individual’s specific needs.

Princess Anne spent plenty of time talking to Ms Benson and the service’s staff and supporters, describing her visit as “a pleasure” before unveiling a plaque to commemorate the occasion.

Ms Benson said she was proud to have the achievements of her team recognised and was delighted to welcome the Royal visitor to Darlington.

She said: “I am very proud of what myself and my staff have achieved because it is all about the young people of Darlington; that is what we all do it for.

“I am pleased that Her Royal Highness chose to come here today because youth justice is underrepresented, or was underrepresented, throughout the Butler Trust.

“This year I was the only youth offending representative at the awards, but they’ve asked me go back in 2016 to be a guest speaker which I think again highlights the work that we are doing here.”

The Butler Trust recognises excellence in the prison, probation, community and youth justice sector and its director, Simon Shepherd said that Princess Anne had overrun her Darlington visit by ten minutes because she was so interested in hearing more about the team’s work.

He added: “She has been a patron for 30-years and that makes all the difference because that is what makes the Butler Trust awards so special to people; she is an ambassador for people working in this sector.

“She is amazing, we are lucky to have her and she was on particularly good form today.”

Others attending the event included Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg, Darlington Mayor and Mayoress Tom and Gill Nutt and council leader and youth offending service board member Bill Dixon who said: “It shows you what a good youth offending service we have got.

“We might be the third smallest but our achievements have been massive.”