13th April 2016
Essex has been home to Lorna Rolfe for more than 35 years and is the place where she has brought up her family, been a long-serving magistrate, a successful businesswoman and an active member of the community.
Now Lorna, who came over the border from Scotland to live in Great Chesterford, is taking up the role of High Sheriff of Essex. She will be the 836th person and only the seventh woman to hold the prestigious office which by tradition involves upholding the Queen's Peace. In more recent times, the role has evolved and now has an emphasis on promoting crime prevention and community safety.
When she found out about her appointment, which she describes as “a huge privilege”, Lorna started to research previous High Sheriffs of Essex.
She was intrigued to find they had such a wide variety of interests and activities and was also pleased to come across references to King Robert the Bruce and his historical connections with the county.
Lorna says her role as a magistrate over the past 30 years has given her an extensive insight into the county and its people.
“I started as a magistrate in Saffron Walden which has a very rural aspect, with defendants coming before the court for offences such as hare coursing and poaching. Since then, sitting at courts across the county including Epping, Harlow and Chelmsford I have seen a comprehensive cross – section of Essex men, women and young people. Sometimes as magistrates we turn to each other and say, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’
“In the family courts you often see different generations of the same families and the challenge is to try to break that cycle.”
Making a difference is one of Lorna's main aims as High Sheriff of Essex and she has a great belief that there are plenty of positive aspects to build on in the county.
As well as being involved with the judiciary and all the emergency services during her year office, Lorna will also be forging links with the voluntary sector, visiting local groups and organisations. Another part of her role will be promoting the High Sheriff’s Fund, which is managed by the independent charitable trust, Essex Community Foundation (ECF).
The fund gives much-needed support to local organisations in Essex that are making a valuable contribution to community safety and crime prevention.
“There are so many really good people in Essex doing amazing and inspirational things, trying to make life better for others,” said Lorna. “As High Sheriff I will be very privileged to be able to see their activities first-hand and most importantly to hear people’s stories.
“The voluntary sector doesn’t seek reward or praise but, through sheer grit and determination the work being done by volunteers does help to keep people out of the criminal justice system.”
Lorna is delighted that by working with ECF she will be able to see the voluntary sector in action at grassroots level and provide support and encouragement to volunteers. Each High Sheriff gives recognition to voluntary groups and individuals through the annual High Sheriff’s Awards, which is organised by ECF.
Domestic violence, imaginative rehabilitation for offenders and family issues are high on Lorna’s agenda for her year in office and she is determined to use her time as a catalyst for innovation.
“I think a High Sheriff can be a conduit, bringing various agencies together so that they can work as effectively as possible. There is no point in the role unless it does make a difference,” she says.
“I am very much looking forward to meeting people of all generations who live and work in this exciting and hugely diverse county. There are areas of deprivation where crime can emerge because of circumstances and addressing this is a continual challenge but Essex is also a vibrant and innovative county
where entrepreneurs flourish and culture thrives. We have beautiful countryside and great people and I am proud to call it my home.
I am also hoping to raise the profile of the north of Essex and shall be holding various events including a garden party, a musical night and possibly a concert in aid of various charities.”
During her year of office Lorna will be supported by her husband Howard and their three grown-up children Alasdair, Lois and Sarah. She will also be helped by a loyal band of local friends.
The role of High Sheriff is a Royal appointment which is self-funded and does not take money from the public purse. For lady High Sheriffs the uniform includes, what Lorna describes as, “a large hat with a huge feather.”
She is looking forward to wearing the hat but is also very conscious that she needs to hide it away from the latest addition to the family, a golden retriever puppy who, she says, may just see it as a marvellously edible toy.
For people in Essex, Lorna in her uniform, with the flamboyant hat, will be a welcome sight as she goes about making an ancient role worthwhile and relevant in the modern age.
There have been High Sheriffs for at least 1,000 years. The original ‘Shire Reeves’ were Royal officials appointed to enforce the King’s interests in a County, in particular the collection of revenues and taxes, and the maintenance of law and order. High Sheriffs had extensive powers. They were in effect Judge, Justice of the Peace and Jury before the development of the Justices and Assizes system.
Today the High Sheriff is required to make a meaningful contribution to his or her county during their year of office. The role involves giving active support to the Royal family, the judiciary, the police and other law-enforcement agencies, the emergency services, local authorities and all recognised church and faith groups and includes supporting and promoting voluntary organisations within the county.
More information about the history and role of the High Sheriff is available at http://www.highsheriffs.com/History.htm