High Sheriff of Essex’s Justice Service held in Saffron Walden for the first time

A CEREMONIAL service to mark a historic custom has been held in Saffron Walden for the first time.

The High Sheriff of Essex, Lady Ruggles-Brise, requested that the annual Justice Service - usually held in Chelmsford Cathedral - be held at St Mary’s Parish Church, and judges, lawyers, the town’s mayor and mayoress and church dignitaries were amongst the 700 people who attended.

A church spokesman said: “The Justice Service has its origins in the historic custom that before the local Assize Court began to sit, the High Court Judge conducting the Assizes would go to the cathedral with the High Sheriff and local judges, barristers and court officials to pray for wisdom and humility in his forthcoming task of conducting the trials and sentencing those found guilty.

“The custom ceased when the Assizes were replaced in 1972 by the Crown Court, which sits permanently all year round, but was revived in Essex in 1974 by the then High Sheriff, Colonel George Judd.”

A moving sermon was given by the Chaplain-General to HM Land Forces, the Reverend Jonathan Woodhouse, who stressed the importance of humility and prayer for all in the legal professions.

The Office of High Sheriff is over 1,000 years old. Since 1258 it has been an annual appointment, made by the Queen on the advice of the Privy Council. Lady Ruggles-Brise is the 831st recorded holder of the office in Essex.