7th April 2019
My year as High Sheriff of Greater London
I’ve been very flattered by the hundreds of messages from both friends and strangers in the last couple of days since I was sworn in as High Sheriff by the Lord Chief Justice. I was offered the role around five years ago, so I’ve had plenty of time to prepare for my year ahead.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the position, which I imagine is most of you, allow me to give a bit of background.
Each year, the Sovereign appoints a High Sheriff for each of the 55 counties of England and Wales as her representative in respect of justice. The post is the oldest secular office in the United Kingdom after the Crown, and dates back to Saxon times. It is independent, non-political, and unpaid. Greater London covers thirty-two London boroughs, 607 sq. miles and has a population of about 8.2 million citizens.
The powers, wealth and duties of the High Sheriff peaked about nine centuries ago in the days of Robin Hood. Then, as the King’s man, or Reeve, in the county or Shire, he collected all the taxes, oversaw all the law and order, and so acted as customs man, chief of police, lead prosecutor, judge and jury.
Since then, and for those who know me this will come as a bit of a relief, we have lost all our powers and almost all our duties. But one of those few surviving solemn duties is to make awards under the 1826 Criminal Law Act introduced by Sir Robert Peel, the father of modern policing, for members of the public who have shown outstanding acts of bravery in helping stop crimes they have witnessed.
The rest of the year is pretty much for the incumbent to decide how they use their time in office. I intend to focus on domestic abuse, modern slavery and the rehabilitation of ex-offenders, a long-time passion of mine. Gangs and knife crime tend to dominate headlines and I don’t particularly intend to add my voice to that debate as there are many experts in this field, though I will be encouraging former gang leaders I know who have turned a corner to step up and engage more because of the authenticity of their experiences.
But I’m open to any suggestions you may have and you can contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
I’ll be using this blog to provide regular updates on my activities and share what I think will be a cocktail of inspirational and saddening stories of what London is fully like.