How They Are Appointed

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

Nominations to the Office of High Sheriff are dealt with through the Presiding Judge of the Circuit and the Privy Council for consideration by The Sovereign in Council. The annual nominations of three prospective High Sheriffs for each County are made in a meeting of the Lords of the Council in the King’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice presided over by the Lord Chief Justice on 12th November each year. Subsequently, the selection of new High Sheriffs is made annually in March, when the traditional custom of the Sovereign ‘pricking’ the appointee’s name with a bodkin is perpetuated. Eligibility for nomination and appointment of High Sheriffs excludes Peers of Parliament and Members of the House of Commons, and, by extension, Members of the Welsh Assembly, full-time members of the Judiciary including Tribunal Judges,  and Officers of the Royal Navy, Army or Royal Air Force on full pay. These provisions reflect the essential requirement that the Office of High Sheriff is a non-political appointment.

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 HIS MAJESTY was this day pleased, by and with the advice of HIS PRIVY COUNCIL, to nominate you for, and appoint you to be HIGH SHERIFF of the COUNTY OF…
during HIS 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 HIS MAJESTY’S PLEASURE, whereof you are duly to answer according to law.’

The High Sheriff takes up appointment with the making of a sworn declaration in terms set out by the Sheriffs Act 1887, preferably using the revised 2020 version of the declaration as approved by the King’s Remembrancer and with the consent of  His Majesty, before a High Court Judge or Justice of the Peace. The appointment is for one year only and it is customary for the declaration to be made before the end of April each year. For a new appointee not to give prompt effect to His Majesty’s wishes would not be an appropriate interpretation of the Act

To enable the requirements of the Sheriffs Act 1887 to be fulfilled, it is the customary duty of an incumbent High Sheriff to nominate, in consultation with the County Nomination Panel,  a successor to serve in their county in three years’ time.

With the support and encouragement of the Ministry of Justice, County Nomination Panels, which includes independent members, have been established in all counties in recent years to assist High Sheriffs in identifying suitably experienced and public spirited individuals prepared to take on what can often be a highly time-demanding role. The Office of High Sheriff is carried out on a wholly voluntary basis with no part of the expense incurred by the High Sheriff falling on the public purse.

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.