This significant event for all those who sit in the courts in Surrey took place at Holy Trinity Church in the High Street of Guildford on 7th October. For two years Covid had prevented the traditional holding of it at the church on the first Friday in October, the start of the Legal Year. There was no Service in 2020 and, in July 2021, the Service was held in Guildford Cathedral.
Prior to the Service, the High Sheriff of Surrey welcomed at the Guildhall the High Sheriffs of East and West Sussex, Mrs Jane King JP and Mr James Whitmore, Mr Justice David Williams KC, HHJ Robert Fraser MVO DL Hon. Recorder of Guildford, other Circuit Judges, and District Judges who were all in their robes, and JPs. The Mayor of Guildford Mr Denis Booth, and other Surrey Mayors, Councillors, and Hon. Aldermen donned their robes and all processed to Holy Trinity in two processions. The Civic Procession was led by Temporary Chief Superintendent Tom Budd and the High Sheriff’s Procession was headed by Deputy Chief Constable Nev Kemp. As the processions neared the church the trumpeters of the London Banqueting Ensemble played two fanfares.
Rev. Canon Robert Cotton, Chaplain to the High Sheriff, welcomed a full congregation to his church, stating how the Service was for all people in the county. The two readings by Judge Fraser and the High Sheriff were separated by the anthem “O Clap Your Hands”, sung by the choir of Guildford Royal Grammar School with the children of Holy Trinity, Pewley Down. Written by Vaughan Williams, the anthem was a fitting choice given this year marked the 150th anniversary of his birth, and he lived in the county from the age of three. The choir also beautifully sang “The Lord Bless you and Keep you”, by John Rutter.
Canon Cotton’s thought-provoking and fitting sermon about justice was beautifully crafted. He began by asking “Where is justice to be found here and now?” He talked of the ever-present requirement for justice in society and of the need to ensure that the Year 6 children watching from the upstairs of the church, looking down and over the shoulders of the congregation, did not have their future blighted by their elders. “Inter-generational justice” means that it would be unjust to let today’s children pick up our debt. In the Bible, justice is likened to a trumpet, just as trumpets near the altar call us to live well, and justly.
He quoted the words of the distinguished Law Lord, Lord Atkin, who said “Justice is not a cloistered virtue”. It must be present in all parts of society and between the generations, and not confined to a judge’s chambers. It has to be lived among all of us. The Canon told how, growing up, he had hated the word “ought” until he realised that it derived from “to owe”. So each generation owes a duty to its successors regarding justice and the environment. Justice is to be found in the young, who are a spur to us to live justly. It is to be found in the content of a person’s character and it is unchanging. His words were warmly received and much commented upon.
DCC Kemp declared Surrey Police’s continuing commitment to upholding law and order and he invited the High Sheriff to repeat his Shrieval Promise to the King. The High Sheriff asked the Judges if they would continue in their faithful service to uphold the law for the good of all, to which all replied affirmatively. Lesley Devonport of the Rape and Sexual Assault Support Centre in Guildford made a Declaration of Commitment to Public Service.
A prayer for the King and country was read by Joosje Hamilton DL. One for the Prison Service and Probation Staff was spoken by Jan West, retired Court Team Probation Service Manager of Surrey and Sussex. Jane Derbyshire read a prayer for Community Service and Susan Lochner JP DL for the Judiciary and Magistrates.
A Collection was held for the High Sheriff Youth Awards. After the Dismissal and the singing of the National Anthem, which had a beautiful trumpet and brass introduction by the LBE and boys of the RGS, the congregation left the church and then watched the processions make their way down the cobbled High Street to the Guildhall. Many members of the passing public stopped to watch and took photographs. A glorious fanfare from the LBE on the balcony of the Guildhall heralded the return to the Guildhall.
After refreshments had been taken, the High Sheriff spoke from the Bench of the significance of the historic building as the former Quarter Sessions Court until the advent of the Crown Court in 1972. He referred to the links between the Judiciary and Civic Authorities, the old Guildhall representing their traditional home. He recounted the occasion in 1860 when William Evelyn, High Sheriff of Surrey, was fined £500 by the High Court Judge with whom he was sitting at the Assizes in Tunsgate. He had dared to challenge the Judge’s closing of the court to members of the public on account of the noise from the market outside. The fine equated to £67,500 in today’s money and it had to be paid, despite an appeal to Parliament to quash it. Nonetheless, the Shrievalty continued to support the judiciary.
The High Sheriff thanked all who had worked so hard in organising the Service and in particular his Under Sheriff Caroline Breckell, the Civic Secretary Kate Foxton, Canon Cotton, Sam Orchard Director of Musc at the RGS, and the musicians of the LBE.