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