About the Office of the Sheriff

At the Office of the Sheriff of New South Wales, we conduct law enforcement, security and support activities to ensure the safe and successful operation of state courts.

We also administer the NSW jury service system, a massive operation which involves more than 200,000 citizens each year. More than 400 specially trained Sheriff's officers, court officers and clerical staff are employed at 58 Sheriff's offices across the state.   

Court security services

Court security underpins the safe and efficient functioning of the courts and justice system.

Our security services maintain the security of court complexes, many of which have airport-style perimeter security and scanning. Uniformed Sheriff's officers ensure the safety of judicial officers, legal professionals and the public in all NSW courts and tribunals.  

Law enforcement 

Our law enforcement responsibilities include serving warrants, summons, enforcement and other orders issued by various NSW courts and tribunals. 

We also serve and enforce orders within New South Wales on behalf of commonwealth courts including the High Court, Federal Court and Family Court of Australia. 

Sheriff's officers enforce writs, warrants and Property Seizure Orders issued under the Fines Act 1996.  

These writs and warrants range from the seizure and sale of personal (private assets) and property, to the apprehension of people and arrest of ships and cargo.  

The goods and property seized can be sold at Sheriff's auctions.

Administration of the jury system

We administer the jury system of New South Wales, including preparing jury rolls for the 73 districts in the state and summons people to undertake jury service. 

Find out more about jury service.

Courtroom support 

Our court officers provide support in court complexes and courtrooms. Their duties include preparing courtrooms for proceedings; calling and swearing in of witnesses; and handling exhibits. They also look after the welfare and comfort of jurors who are called for jury service.  

What are Sheriff's officers?

Sheriff's officers are defined as law enforcement officers in terms of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) and enjoy certain provisions and protections prescribed by that legislation.

They need to take an oath or affirmation of office in accordance with the Sheriff Act 2005 (NSW). They wear blue uniforms, similar to those of the police.

Find out more about:

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.

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 transfer of prisoners under sentence to 'iron 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, nor 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
Last updated:

03 Apr 2020

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