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History of the Office of the Sheriff

The Office of the Sheriff was established in Australia by the Third Charter of Justice (New South Wales Act), which was passed in 1823 and came into effect the following year.

Image of Sheriff Cecil Maybury
Cecil Maybury, Sheriff NSW 1896-1917

Prior to this, the duties of the sheriff were performed by the provost marshal of the colony of New South Wales.

In 1824, the colony of New South Wales included the whole of eastern Australia, as well as Van Dieman's Land (now Tasmania).


Sheriffs were appointed in the colonies of Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania after their separation from New South Wales, and also in the colonies of South Australia and Western Australia. These colonies later became states, each of which still has a sheriff.


Former role of the New South Wales sheriff

The colonial records of New South Wales state that in 1824 the duties of the sheriff were to:

  • execute all the judgments, decrees and orders of the Supreme Court

  • carry out the death sentence in criminal cases

  • carry out minor sentences passed by the court in criminal cases 

  • discharge the duties of the Coroner

  • act as the Marshal of the Admiralty

  • arrange for the transmission of prisoners under sentence to 'iron'd gangs' in the interior, Goat Island and the streets of Sydney

  • run the gaols

  • arrange the reception and disposal of prisoners returned from penal settlements.

Many of these duties have disappeared over the years, in particular responsibility for carrying out death sentences as the death penalty was abolished in across Australia.

The Office of the Sheriff no longer runs gaols, which are now controlled by the Department of Corrective Services, not do they act as coroners, as this is the special responsibility of the Coroner's Court.

Today, the Office of the Sheriff has broad responsibility for enforcing the civil law of New South Wales, as well as providing court security and running the jury system.


Sheriffs of New South Wales: colonial to current day

There have been 24 sheriffs, including the current sheriff and three acting sheriffs in New South Wales since 1824.

DATE

SHERIFF

1824-1827 John Mackanass
1828 William Carter
1829-1841 Thomas Macquoid
1824 William Hustler
1843-1849 Adolphus William Young
1849-1854 Gilbert Eliot
1855-1860 John O'Neill Brenan
1861-1864 George Richard Uhr
1864-1874 Harold Maclean
1874-1896 Charles Cowper
1896-1917 Cecil Edmunds Bridgewater Maybury
1917-1920 Charles Richard Walsh
1920-1925 Walter William Crockford
1925-1939 George Francis Murphy
1939-1945 Harry Charles Lester
1945-1960 Roland Oliver Elliot
1960-1968 Donald Mercer Richardson
1968-1974 Thomas Alexander Woodward
1974-1985 George Francis Hanson
1985-1997 David Michael Lennon
1997-1998 Nerida Johnston (Acting)
1998-2002 Bruce Kelly
2002-2003 Kenneth Holdgate (Acting)
2003-2007 Gary Byles
2007-2008 Reg Kruit (Acting)
2008-2011

Christopher Benjamin Allen

2012- Tracey Hall
Image of part of the Charter of Justice of King George 1823.
Detail from the Third Charter of Justice 1823 (UK), which led to the establishment of the Supreme Court and Office of the Sheriff of New South Wales.