1. What does the High Sheriff do?
  2. How is the High Sheriff chosen?
  3. Who is eligible to be High Sheriff?
  4. What happens at the ‘Pricking Ceremony’?
  5. Can a Justice of the Peace be a High Sheriff?
  6. What happens at the Installation?
  7. What are the main events during the High Sheriff’s year?
  8. Does the High Sheriff present any awards?
  9. Does the High Sheriff receive any training?
  10. What does a High Sheriff wear?
  11. What is the High Sheriff’s precedence in the county?
  12. Who are the previous High Sheriffs of Derbyshire?
  13. Who are the High Sheriffs in Nomination?
  14. How can I invite the High Sheriff to my event?
  15. What is an Under-Sheriff?
  16. How do I contact the High Sheriff or Under-Sheriff?

What does the High Sheriff do?

The Office of High Sheriff is an independent, non-political Royal appointment, and each county in England and Wales has a High Sheriff.  The origins of the Office date back over 1000 years, to Saxon times, when the ‘Shire Reeve’ was responsible to the monarch for the maintenance of law and order within the shire, or county, and for the collection and return of taxes due to the Crown. Today, there are 55 High Sheriffs serving the counties of England and Wales each year. Each High Sheriff serves for a one-year term, usually commencing in April. 

The duties of this once-powerful role have evolved over time, and almost all of the original enforcement and financial powers of the Office have been transferred to the various government departments and professional law enforcement agencies. Curiously, one of the few remaining statutory duties of the High Sheriff is to act as Returning Officer in a Parliamentary election! 

However, although now largely ceremonial, supporting the Crown and the judiciary remain central elements of the role today. The High Sheriff will usually attend at Royal visits to the county, and will also attend to the welfare of visiting High Court Judges, and occasionally sit with them at Court in an observatory role. In more modern times, a key role of High Sheriffs is to actively lend support and encouragement to crime prevention agencies, the emergency services and to the voluntary sector. In recent years High Sheriffs in many parts of England and Wales have been particularly active in encouraging crime reduction initiatives, especially amongst young people. Many High Sheriffs, as in Derbyshire, also assist Community Foundations and local charities working with vulnerable and other people both in endorsing and helping to raise the profile of their valuable work. 

How is the High Sheriff chosen?

The current High Sheriff each year is responsible for nominating a successor, usually four years in advance. In Derbyshire, as in many other counties, there is a County Consultative Panel to assist the High Sheriff with this process, although the final decision is entirely the High Sheriff’s.

The nomination goes forward to the Privy Council and is then read out by the Queen’s Remembrancer at an annual Nomination Ceremony in November in the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Names are read out three times on three consecutive years before being submitted to the Queen for her approval at the ancient ‘Pricking Ceremony’. There are usually three persons “in nomination”, awaiting their turn to serve.

Who is eligible to be High Sheriff?

There is no bar to anyone serving as High Sheriff, whether from social standing, gender, race, sexuality, disability or faith. However, a person can only become High Sheriff provided that; 

  • They own property in the County, the size or location of which is immaterial. 
  • They have played, or are playing, a prominent part in the life of the county, for example in voluntary or charitable activities
  • They are seen to represent the county as a whole
  • They do not play an active part in politics during their year in office
  • They have not served as High Sheriff within the previous three years
  • They are not a member of the House of Lords, House of Commons, European Parliament, or Welsh Assembly, a full-time member of the judiciary, a Special Commissioner of Income Tax, or Officer of the Navy, Army or Royal Air Force on full pay.

In nominating individuals to serve as High Sheriff, the current High Sheriff will normally consider the advice of the County Consultative Panel on suitable candidates, and also be mindful that the expenses incurred during the year of Office are borne entirely by the individual who holds the Office. He or she will therefore normally ensure prior to nomination, that a person thought suitable for nomination understands the implications and agrees for their name to go forward.

The High Sheriff is always keen to receive information about any outstanding individuals who fit the above criteria and may be suitable for nomination.   

What happens at the ‘Pricking Ceremony’?

The names of the High Sheriffs in Nomination for the coming year are presented to the Queen at a ceremony in the Privy Council known as the ‘Pricking Ceremony’. The Queen indelibly marks the names on a parchment roll, by pricking them with a silver bodkin (a blunt needle for threading ribbon through loops).

Historically the role of High Sheriff could be ruinously expensive and unpopular and therefore not always a welcome honour. By using a bodkin the names were permanently marked and the list could not be altered. This practice is thought to have started during the reign of Henry VII (1485-1508).

Can a Justice of the Peace be a High Sheriff?

Yes - but he or she cannot sit in the Magistrates Court during the year of office.   He or she may resume duties as a JP after the Installation of the next High Sheriff.

What happens at the Installation?

The Installation marks the start of the High Sheriff’s year and is usually held between late March and mid-April following ‘Pricking’. The Installation is a short formal legal occasion during which the incoming High Sheriff makes a statutory Declaration of Office before a Judge or Justice of the Peace. The occasion is usually attended by the Lord Lieutenant, the outgoing High Sheriff, the Under Sheriff, the Chaplain, and other guests.

What are the main events during the High Sheriff’s year?

The office of the High Sheriff is entirely funded by the current High Sheriff who receives no help with expenses. With this in mind what a High Sheriff decides to do during the year is very much up to the individual and can vary from year to year. In Derbyshire, there is normally a High Sheriff’s Legal Service, held at Derby Cathedral each October, to which members of the judiciary, the legal profession and other partner agencies, as well as a wide range of local people, are invited. 

Does the High Sheriff present any awards?

The High Sheriff makes formal presentations of Court Awards and Judges’ Commendations to members of the public, on behalf of HM Judges at Derby and other Crown Courts, at a small ceremony usually held in March. As well as presenting awards to those who have been active in the apprehension of certain offenders, the High Sheriff also presents awards issued by the Royal Humane Society to those who have saved, or endeavoured to save lives, in dangerous or difficult circumstances. These presentations often take place as part of Derbyshire Constabulary Awards Ceremonies at Police Headquarters, where the High Sheriff also presents Crown Court Commendations to police officers, but can be done individually if circumstances require it.

From 2013 onwards, a new High Sheriff’s Award will be instituted. This will be presented by the High Sheriff to individuals and groups who have 

  • performed outstanding service to their local communities, making a real difference to the quality of life for their fellow citizens, or, 
  • have been of outstanding service to the Derbyshire community in their chosen field.

The awards will usually take the form of a framed certificate, but may be accompanied by a modest monetary award from the High Sheriff’s Fund, if the High Sheriff considers it appropriate.  

Does the High Sheriff receive any training?

High Sheriffs in Nomination are well supported and advised by the High Sheriffs’ Association. Each year the Association organises a national seminar and encourages a number of Regional Meetings. At these events High Sheriffs in Nomination are able to meet each other, exchange ideas and receive advice on the role. Those in nomination in Derbyshire are normally co-opted to the County Consultative Committee, and are well-supported in their induction to the Office by the current and previous High Sheriffs.

What does a High Sheriff wear?

On formal and ceremonial occasions High Sheriffs either wear Court Dress, a suit of black silk velvet trimmed with cut steel buttons based on the style of the mid-eighteenth century, or if they are retired members of the Armed Forces, they may wear military uniform, if they attained the rank of Captain or above in the Army, or the equivalent in the other two services. You can see a photograph of the current High Sheriff wearing Court Dress (here)

Lady High Sheriffs have generally adapted the style of the traditional Court Dress to suit their requirements and have added a hat adorned with ostrich feathers.

What is the High Sheriff’s precedence in the county?

The High Sheriff is by right second in the county only to the Lord Lieutenant (or deputy acting as Lord Lieutenant) but, as a matter of courtesy, gives precedence to Mayors at their own civic functions, i.e. where the Mayor is clearly acting as host. When in attendance upon High Court Judges at the Crown Court the High Sheriff has precedence.

The Lord Lieutenant and the High Sheriff are both appointed by, and are representatives of, the Sovereign in the county.  The Lord Lieutenant is responsible for civil and other matters, whilst the High Sheriff is responsible for law and order, i.e. for keeping the Queen’s Peace.

Who are the previous High Sheriffs of Derbyshire?

An extensive list can be found here. Derbyshire’s High Sheriffs since 2000 are:

2012 Alan Woods DL
2011 David Coke-Steel Esq; DL
2010 Fiona Cannon JP,DL
2009 Sir Henry Every Bt; DL
2008 Lord Ralph Kerr DL
2007 Roger Bullin Wardle DL
2006 The Hon. David Legh DL
2005 Robert Shields DL
2004 Jasper Olivier DL
2003 Graham Rudd DL
2002 Dianne Jeffrey CBE, DL
2001 Jane Walker-Okeover DL
2000 Margaret Boissier 

Who are the High Sheriffs in Nomination?

Please click High Sheriffs in Nomination to see details of the current list of High Sheriffs in Nomination

How can I invite the High Sheriff to my event?

The High Sheriff’s year in Office, or the Shrieval Year, is very busy and normally, the High Sheriff will very quickly have a full diary with a large number of events to attend, so an early invitation is vital. If you represent a voluntary, charity or community organisation in Derbyshire, and you think the High Sheriff may be interested in attending or supporting your event, please get in touch with us Here. Tell us about your organisation, the nature and date of the event you are organising, and how you think it is relevant to the High Sheriff’s responsibilities. We will endeavour to respond quickly, and may ask you for further details before a decision is made, but please don’t be too disappointed if the High Sheriff is already committed on the date. 

What is an Under-Sheriff?

The role of the Under Sheriff primarily is to support the High Sheriff in carrying out their duties.

The Law requires each High Sheriff to appoint an Under Sheriff.  

Historically the Under Sheriff would carry out most of the “day job” of the High Sheriff and as recently as 2003 Under Sheriffs enforced High Court Judgments in their County.  In the main the High Sheriff would employ a team of Bailiffs to do so.  The Law changed and the responsibility for enforcement of High Court Judgments now rests with the High Court Enforcement Officers.  

Unlike the High Sheriff the Under Sheriff although technically appointed year by year will serve for a number of years therefore providing continuity between High Sheriffs.  The Under Sheriff can act as a point of contact for the High Sheriff.

The High Sheriff has the power and the duty to make payments to people who in the view of a Crown Court Judge should receive a monetary award for their role in the apprehension of offenders.  The Under Sheriff who receives the notification of such awards arranges payment.

The Under Sheriff helps with the coordination and organisation of certain “set piece” events during the year such as the installation of the High Sheriff, the Legal Service and the High Sheriff award ceremony.

The current Under Sheriff of Derbyshire is Andrew Cochrane who is a Partner in Derby based Law Firm, Flint Bishop LLP.  

How do I contact the High Sheriff or Under Sheriff? 

The most convenient means of contacting the High Sheriff or Under-Sheriff is by using the enquiry form on the Contact Us page link here

If you need to contact us urgently, the Under-Sheriff, Andrew Cochrane, can be contacted at: 

The Office of the High Sheriff of Derbyshire, Flint Bishop, St. Michael’s Court, St. Michael’s Lane, Derby DE1 3HQ; Telephone 01332 226142