The Sheriff in Australia
The Office of the Sheriff was first established in Australia by the Charter of Justice in 1824. Prior to this, the duties of the Sheriff were performed by the Provost-Marshal of the Colony of New South Wales.
The 1824 Charter also created the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. For the first time, the colony of New South Wales had three branches of government – Executive, Administrative and Judicial. This division of government continues to this day.
The role of the New South Wales Sheriff
There have been twenty one Sheriffs in New South Wales since 1824, and while some of the responsibilities of the Sheriff remain the same, there have been substantial changes in that time.
The historical records of New South Wales state that the duties of the Sheriff in 1824 were to:
- “execute all the judgments, decrees and orders of the Supreme Court;
- in criminal cases, carry out the death sentence and any minor sentences the Court might pass;
- 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; and
- 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 (the death penalty has been abolished in all Australian States), running gaols (which are now controlled by the Department of Corrective Services) and to Act as Coroner (now the special responsibility of the Coroner’s Court).
Today, the Office of the Sheriff has broad responsibility for the enforcing the civil law of New South Wales, as well as the providing Court security and running the jury system.
The responsibilities of the Sheriff today are to:
- administer the Sheriff’s Office;
- serve Summonses and enforcement orders, warrants and orders of the Supreme, District and Local Courts, and other tribunals and courts in New South Wales;
- serve and enforce orders within the borders of New South Wales on behalf of Commonwealth courts, including the High Court, Federal Court and the Family Court of Australia;
- arrange security for the Supreme Court, District Court, certain Local Courts and a range of tribunals; and
- administer the jury system in New South Wales.