High Sheriff

The High Sheriff is, or was, a law enforcement position in Anglosphere countries. In England and Wales, the High Sheriff is an unpaid, partly ceremonial post appointed by The Crown through a Warrant from the Privy Council. In Cornwall the High Sheriff is appointed by the Duke of Cornwall. In some states of the United States of America, the High Sheriff is the chief sheriff of the state, who outranks and commands all other sheriffs.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the High Sheriff is theoretically the Sovereign's judicial representative in the countyFact|date=June 2007, while the Lord Lieutenant is the Sovereign's personal representative. (The post should not be confused with that of Sheriff in Scotland, who is a judge sitting in a Sheriff Court.) Their jurisdictions, the "Shrieval Counties", are no longer co-terminous with administrative areas, representing a mix between the ancient counties and more recent local authority areas. The post is unpaid (except for a nominal court attendance allowance), and the general expenses of the office are borne personally by the holder [ [http://www.privy-council.org.uk/output/page29.asp Privy Council public information website] ] .

The office of Sheriff has its origins in the 10th century; the office reached the height of its influence under the Norman kings. The Provisions of Oxford (1258) established a yearly tenure of office. The appointments and duties of the High Sheriffs in England and Wales are laid down by the "Sheriffs Act 1887" [ [http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/legResults.aspx?LegType=All+Legislation&title=Sheriffs'&searchEnacted=0&extentMatchOnly=0&confersPower=0&blanketAmendment=0&TYPE=QS&NavFrom=0&activeTextDocId=1060203&PageNumber=1&SortAlpha=0 Full text of the Sheriffs Act 1877 c.55 on DCA Website] ] .

The serving Sheriff submits a list of names of possible future sheriffs to a tribunal which chooses three names to put to the Sovereign. The nomination is made on 12 November every year and the term of office runs from 25 March, the start of the legal year prior to 1752. No person may be appointed twice in three years unless there is no other suitable person in the county.


The practice of "pricking" is an ancient custom used to appoint the High Sheriffs of England and Wales.

In February or March of each year, a parchment, prepared the previous November, is presented to the Monarch of the United Kingdom at a meeting of the Privy Council. The parchment contains the names of those nominated by the Queen's Remembrancer for all the counties of England and Wales except Cornwall, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Lancashire. [cite web|url=http://www.highsheriffgloucestershire.org.uk/queen.htm|title=The Queen's Remembrancer and High Sheriffs|accessdate=2008-09-01] A separate parchment is drawn up for Cornwall and presented to the Duke of Cornwall (or to the monarch when there is no Duke). The monarch, as Duke of Lancaster, receives a separate parchment for Merseyside, Greater Manchester, and Lancaster.

Three persons are nominated for each county, of whom one is chosen by the monarch to be sheriff. In practice, the first name on the list is nowadays always the one chosen; the second and third names will become sheriffs in succeeding years, barring incapacity or death. The monarch signifies assent by pricking (i.e., piercing) the document with a silver bodkin by the relevant name for each county, and signs the parchment when complete. The parchment for the Duchy of Lancaster is known as the "Lites", and the ceremony of selection known as "Pricking the Lites". [cite web | url=http://www.duchyoflancaster.co.uk/output/page44.asp | title=Palatine High Sheriffs | publisher=The Duchy of Lancaster | acccessdate=2008-10-02] The term "lites", meaning "list", was once reserved for Yorkshire; [cite journal | title=Memorabilia | journal=Notes and Queries | date=13 July 1929 | url=http://nq.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/issue_pdf/frontmatter_pdf/CLVII/jul13.pdf | acccessdate=2008-10-02] the date at which the name was transferred to Lancashire is unknown.

The practice is believed to date back to the reign of Elizabeth I, when, lacking a pen, she decided to use her bodkin to mark the name instead. However, Lord Campbell states that in February 1847, while acquiring a prick and a signature from Queen Victoria, that Prince Albert asked him when the custom began, to which Campbell replied "In ancient times, sir, when sovereigns did not know how to write their names." [http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9C06E6DD113EE433A2575AC1A9659C94639FD7CF "Late For Dinner" - The New York Times, 19 March 1882] ] [ [http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=dXPIQ6TSep8C&pg=PA59&lpg=PA59&dq=prick+bodkin+queen&source=web&ots=gS1BVGa_0Q&sig=eIiRi7lFX9Re4je4qrnb7vhEWFs&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=6&ct=result Tytler, Sarah - "Life of Her Most Gracious Majesty", 2006] ]


Contemporary High Sheriffs have few genuine responsibilities and their functions are largely representational: [ [http://www.westsussex.gov.uk/ccm/content/community-and-living/lieutenancy-civic-and-ceremonial/high-sheriff.en?page=2 Duties of the High Sheriff] , West Sussex County Council] [http://www.highsheriffs.com/SHR02.HTM The Office of High Sheriff] , High Sheriffs' Association of England and Wales]
*Attendance at Royal visits to the county.
*Proclamation of the accession of a new sovereign.
*They usually act as the Returning Officer for Parliamentary elections in county constituencies and see to the annual appointment of an undersheriff.
*Attendance at the opening ceremony when a High Court Judge goes on circuit.
*Execution of High Court writs.
*Appointment of under-sheriffs to act as deputies.

Most of the High Sheriff's work is delegated; for example, the local police protect Judges and Courts, so that in effect the post of High Sheriff is essentially a ceremonial post.Theoretical responsibilities include the well-being and protection of High Court Judges, and attending them in Court; and the maintenance of the loyalty of subjects to the Crown. [A General View Of The Criminal Law Of England - James Fitzjames Stephen 2005]

The High Sheriff was traditionally responsible for the maintenance of law and order within the county, although most of these duties are now delegated to the professional Chief Constable of Police. Nowadays, the position is frequently awarded to people with an association with law enforcement (police, lawyers, magistrates, judges).See List of Shrievalties.

United States

The position of High Sheriff in the United States generally denotes the superior sheriff in a state, or the head of a state-wide sheriff's department. Such a position exists in Rhode Island (Executive High Sheriff) [ [http://www.sheriffs.ri.gov/ Rhode Island State Sheriff's Department] ] , and Hawaii. In New Hampshire, the ten High Sheriffs are the senior law enforcement officers of each county, and have police powers throughout the state.

The New York City Sheriff functions as a de facto high sheriff, as his jurisdiction covers New York City, which contains the five New York Counties - each of which contains an Undersheriff.

ee also

*List of High Sheriffs of the United Kingdom
*List of Shrievalties
*High Court enforcement officers



* [http://www.duchyoflancaster.co.uk/output/page44.asp Duchy of Lancaster: Palatinate High Sheriffs"] , accessed 5 August 2008
* [http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/displaycataloguedetails.asp?CATID=4463&CATLN=3&Highlight=&FullDetails=True&j=1 The National Archives: Duchy of Lancaster: Records of Appointment of the High Sheriff of the County Palatine of Lancaster] , accessed 5 August 2008
* [http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/2224788.former_birkenhead_pupil_is_our_new_high_sheriff/ Wirral Globe: "Former Birkenhead pupil is our new High Sheriff"] , accessed 5 August 2008
* [http://www.priory.lancs.ac.uk/duchy.html Lancaster Priory: "History of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Office of High Sheriff"] , accessed 5 August 2008

External links

* [http://www.highsheriffs.com/ The Association of High Sheriffs]

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