How They Are Appointed

Once the weighty burden of tax collection and law enforcement had been removed, the role of the High Sheriff become a welcome appointment.

It became the sole duty of the High Sheriff to nominate a successor, the office was passed between friends and acquaintances.  But in 2008, the Justice Selection Committee of the House of Commons identified a more modern and open process of nomination was needed.

Nomination Panels
Comprising of a minimum of 7 members, each Nomination Panel should be made up of a good mix of those connected with the current Shrievalty and representatives of the broader community, and include a good gender balance and an appropriate minority representation. The Nomination Panel meets twice yearly, in spring and autumn, and discussions are confidential with only the Under Sheriff taking minute notes of the meeting.

Possible candidates can be suggested by all panel members, and people can independently apply to the panel to be considered for the role.  It remains the duty of the current High Sheriff to nominate a successor to take office in 4 years’ time, but the name must be already known to the nomination panel. Meetings are the platform for the current High Sheriff to substantiate why their candidate is best for the role, and to secure panel approval.

Criteria for candidates is as follows:
They must live within the county.
They must be of good character
They have demonstrated service to the community or a willingness to serve.
They have sufficient time and commitment to fulfil the highly time-demanding role.

Some people cannot be appointed High Sheriff to ensure the essential requirement that it remains a non-political role:

Non-Eligibility for nomination and appointment of High Sheriffs under the Sheriffs Act of 1887
Peers of Parliament and Members of the House of Commons Welsh Assembly
Full-time members of the Judiciary
Special Commissioners
Officers of Customs and Excise or Inland Revenue
Officers of the Post Office
Officers of the Navy, Army or Royal Air Force on full pay.

At the autumn meeting, the High Sheriff will seek approval for their nomination, and once secured, the High Sheriff informs the Lord-Lieutenant of their choice.  Once the Lord-Lieutenant has approved the nomination, the High Sheriff via the Under-Sheriff submits the nomination form to The Chief Clerk to the Queen’s Remembrancer at The Royal Courts of Justice. This must be submitted by January and the name remains undisclosed at this stage.

On 12th November each year in a meeting of the Lords of the Council in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice presided over by the Lord Chief Justice, the names of the next of three prospective High Sheriffs for each County are made known.  Hearing your name read out in such an incredible setting really is something very special to experience! So each November, the name of the person nominated to be High Sheriff in 3 years time is revealed. Your nomination as High Sheriff is subsequently published in the London Gazette, and you are known as a High Sheriff in Nomination.

Who will be High Sheriff of Herefordshire next?
2021: Mrs Joanna Hilditch DL
2022: Mrs Sarah de Rohan JP
2023: Robert C C Robinson Esq
2024: ?

You are now a High Sheriff in nomination
But being in nomination is not a guarantee you will become High Sheriff; this only comes once the pricking ceremony has taken place a month before you are declared. Whilst your nomination is now in the public domain, you are not encouraged to advertise the fact and you should be respectful of those in office before you so as not divert nor dilute their time in office.

The High Sheriff Association provide workshops and seminars for those in nomination to prepare for your time in office, a highlight being the annual summer conference for nominees at Burleigh near Stamford. Not only fun to attend, these events are really beneficial as you learn so much from those who have served before and from speakers from all sorts of organisations. And very importantly meet others in nomination. Regional meetings are held too and you get to know your neighbours who will serve in the same year as you. Herefordshire is in the West Midlands HSA region, along with Worcestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and West Midlands

The famous Pricking Ceremony by The Sovereign for the selection of new High Sheriffs takes place in mid March each year, in a meeting of the Privy Council. This is when, on a vellum list of High Sheriffs due to take office that year,  HM The Queen each pricks each name with a silver bodkin  – see History for why!

Following the ‘pricking’ of the High Sheriff in the Privy Council by the Sovereign, a Warrant of Appointment is sent by the Clerk of the Privy Council in the following terms:

‘WHEREAS HER MAJESTY was this day pleased, by and with the advice of HER PRIVY COUNCIL, to nominate you for, and appoint you to be HIGH SHERIFF of the COUNTY OF HEREFORDSHIRE
during HER MAJESTY’S PLEASURE: These are therefore to require you to take the Custody and Charge of the said COUNTY, and duly to perform the duties of HIGH SHERIFF thereof during HER MAJESTY’S PLEASURE, whereof you are duly to answer according to law.’

Once ‘pricked’, you must take office within one month.

The Declaration
Each county has a slightly different tradition of how the new High Sheriff is inaugurated or declared.  In Herefordshire, the declaration ceremony usually takes place in Court No: 1 at The Shire Hall. It is at the invitation of the current High Sheriff that you attend this ancient ceremony which gathers together the great and the good of the county, and where tradition dictates.  There is much pomp, ceremony, velvet, ostrich feathers, swords, tights and trumpeters!

(Unless there is a pandemic 😊)