The 2016 City of London Sheriffs’ Award for Bravery was presented to Dr Matthew Smith on Thursday 3 November at Salters’ Hall, London by Sheriff Peter Estlin and Sheriff William Russell, Aldermanic Sheriffs of the City of London based at the Central Criminal Court (‘the Old Bailey’) where they support Her Majesty’s Judges.
Smith was nominated for the Sheriffs’ Bravery Award by His Honour Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC, the Recorder of London and the senior Judge at the Central Criminal Court who tried the Leytonstone Underground ‘terror case’ in June of this year. Judge Hilliard commended Dr Smith for “courageously and selflessly” remaining with the victim throughout the attack that took place.
The Sheriffs’ Award was introduced shortly after the 2007 London tube and bus bombings to recognise outstanding acts of bravery by individuals from across the UK. Every year since then, the Sheriffs have sought nominations for members of the public who have, without thought for their own safety, acted to confront danger in a selfless and inspirational way.
Following rigorous review of all nominations by representatives from The Worshipful Company of Security Professionals* and the Sheriffs of the City of London, it was duly agreed that this year’s award should be presented to Dr Smith.
Background to the episode
On the evening of Saturday 5 December last year, Dr Smith was returning home after an eleven-hour shift at Homerton University Hospital. He was met with a chaotic situation in which a 56 year-old musician named Lyle Zimmerman was lying in a pool of blood. Unfortunately for Zimmerman, a minute or so earlier he had been confronted by a schizophrenic knifeman, namely Muhiddin Mire, who was on an Islamic State-inspired rampage at Leytonstone London Underground Station.
With no thought for his own safety an no medical equipment to hand, Dr Smith immediately began administering medical aid to the victim. What made his selflessness and bravery even more compelling was the fact that, as Dr Smith was concentrating all his attention on the victim, he was clearly not in a position to defend himself against any further attack from the assailant who remained in the station’s ticket hall, still armed with the knife and intermittently lunging at and threatening passengers.
While a number of people have been commended for contributing towards limitation of casualties at the scene, including acts of bravery that distracted the assailant, Dr Smith managed to maintain his composure and collect his thoughts enough to apply his medical knowledge to the situation.
Having evaluated the injury by lifting the victim’s jumper, which was initially used to stem the bleeding, Dr Smith knew that specialist equipment only paramedics would carry could save Zimmerman’s life. He also recognised that paramedics wouldn’t be able to attend the violent scene so he managed to raise the man to his feet, and slowly guide him to a place where the paramedics would be able to attend to him in conditions of safety.
Taking control of the scene
Police officers attended the scene within five minutes of an emergency call being received and, after using their Tasers, managed to take control of the scene and detain the suspect.
The incident was captured on CCTV cameras and the footage circulated across the world, drawing comment and coverage across international news sources.
Mire was later sentenced to life imprisonment and will be held at the maximum security Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital until such time that he’s well enough to be moved to a state prison.
Thanks to the bravery of Dr Smith, which was acknowledged by His Honour Judge Hilliard at the Old Bailey trial, Zimmerman made a good recovery after several days spent in hospital.
High quality nominations
The Sheriffs’ Award is launched in February each year with the winner selected by the Sheriffs in the Autumn of the same year. As in previous years, The Worshipful Company received a substantial number of high quality nominations for 2016.
As part of this award, Dr Smith receives a cheque for £2,500. His name will be inscribed on an Honours Board and placed in a Book of Honour, both of which are on permanent display within the Central Criminal Court.
This award is open to nominations from the general public, the business community, the Emergency Services and the Armed Forces.
*The Worshipful Company of Security Professionals is one of the 110 Livery Companies of the City of London. The Worshipful Company is a membership and charitable organisation providing support to the wider education community and important welfare services to the security sector. Membership is drawn from all security organisations within the UK, including leading security professionals from the industrial and retail sectors, serving and retired members of the police and the Armed Forces, security consultants, academics, heads of security for corporate businesses and private investigators