The Under Sheriff – Jonathan Gater
Jonathan is a partner in Blandy & Blandy LLP, solicitors in Reading. He joined the firm as a trainee solicitor in 1991 and qualified as a solicitor in October 1993. Since qualification he has worked in the firm’s Probate, Tax & Trust Department specialising in all aspects of estate and trust administration, lifetime estate planning and Court of Protection work. He was first appointed as Under Sheriff for Berkshire in August 2002.
The firm of Blandy & Blandy has been associated with the office of Under Sheriff since 1837 when John Jackson Blandy was appointed as Under Sheriff.
The role of Under Sheriff
In medieval times Sheriffs were important men and often had other business of the King to attend to in addition to the multiple duties of the medieval Sheriff. It therefore became the custom to appoint an Under Sheriff to ensure that the business of the shire could continue even when the Sheriff was occupied on other affairs. The term Under Sheriff is first recorded in the 12th century.
It is a requirement of the Sheriffs’ Act 1887 that a High Sheriff must appoint an Under Sheriff within one month taking office. The Under Sheriff is often a solicitor and is appointed annually by successive High Sheriffs and is responsible for the legal functions of the office, leaving the High Sheriff to perform ceremonial functions of the office.
Until 2004, all High Court writs were addressed to the High Sheriff and the Under Sheriff was responsible for the execution of those writs via his Sheriff’s officers and bailiffs. Following the changes introduced in 2004, those writs are no longer addressed to the High Sheriff, but Jonathan Gater still deals with the enforcement of High Court writs in his capacity as an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer.
The role of Under Sheriff is therefore now largely ceremonial, with the main responsibilities being organising the swearing-in of the High Sheriff each year, liaising with the Courts regarding the visits of High Court Judges throughout the year and the annual ceremonial church service to celebrate the opening of the Crown Court, which usually takes place each October.