A STUDENT from Taunton walked across THREE national parks and raised more than £3,500 for police charities.

Alex Atherton, a year 1 student at Richard Huish College, walked the length of Exmoor, Dartmoor and the New Forest Park during three days in August.

They walked a total of 83km, and raised an incredible £3,628 for the Avon and Somerset Police Benevolent Fund and Police Care UK.

The 16-year-old is autistic and has experienced mental health issues, so they feel that the police do not get enough recognition for the work they do when helping people with mental health issues.

Alex is studying for the vocational extended diploma in public services and is hoping to join the police force after university.

"I decided to fundraise for police charities as I know some people have a critical judgement towards the police and how they do their job," they said.

"I have been on a section 136 which means the police can detain you for up to 24 hours as they deem you a risk to yourself and others.

"They then take you to a place of safety, whether that be a hospital, 136 suite or if you are over 18 that can include custody.

“I did these walks for the police who have sat with me for hours at a time while I’ve been unwell and have always treated me with respect, as it pains me to think other people sometimes don’t do the same back.

"I also want to thank them for giving me a new hope in life.

"Back in the latter part of 2020 I was quite suicidal and one officer said to me: 'when you make it to 18 come join the police, we need more people like you who can make a difference', so that’s what I plan to do.”

Alex handed over the money they had raised at Crewkerne Police Station to representatives from both charities.

Each charity received £1,814 to support the welfare of serving and former police officers and families who are in need of support.