High Sheriff of East Sussex chosen in ancient ceremony

From left Juliet Smith, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Denise Patterson, Jonathan Lucas and Christopher Gebbie
From left Juliet Smith, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Denise Patterson, Jonathan Lucas and Christopher Gebbie

The new High Sheriff of East Sussex, the oldest secular office appointed by the Crown and dating back more than 1,000 years, made her Declaration of Office at Lewes Crown Court on Friday March 27.

East Sussex’s new High Sheriff Juliet Smith made her declaration of office before the Right Honourable Baroness Hale of Richmond, the Deputy President of the Supreme Court.

She was joined by the new High Sheriff of West Sussex Denise Patterson, outgoing High Sheriff of West Sussex Jonathan Lucas and outgoing High Sheriff of East Sussex Christopher Gebbie.

The ceremony took place at Lewes Crown Court. A procession left the nearby Pelham House for the courts in the High Street at 11.40am and the court trumpeters sounded a fanfare to greet them.

After the ceremony there was another trumpet fanfare and photographs on the court steps before the party retired to Pelham House for lunch.

The High Sheriff is a title which dates back to Saxon times when the incumbent was responsible for collecting taxes and upholding law and order on the king’s behalf.

Today, it is used to promote and encourage voluntary sector initiatives, crime prevention agencies and emergency services.

Juliet, 65, is the first High Sheriff from East Sussex to come from Brighton, where she lives today.

She trained as an English teacher in the 1970s before becoming a magistrate in 1990. She was appointed chairman of the bench.

Mrs Smith has also held a number of other educational posts. She is chairman of governors at Brighton High School and used to be an education consultant for Brighton College.

The office of High Sheriff was first written about at the time of King Canute – in the 1020s.

The word ‘Sheriff’ is derived from ‘Shire Reeve’ – the office of a Reeve being a chief magistrate, who is responsible for law enforcement for the shire or county.