A church service was traditionally held at the beginning of the Court Assizes and this has developed into an annual Justice Service, organised by the High Sheriff, at which we give thanks for our system of law and order and acknowledge with gratitude the contributions of all those who work to uphold the law and administer justice in Hertfordshire - our judges and magistrates, police, prison and probation services, those who support victims, the armed forces, emergency services and the wide range of other public and voluntary groups and faith communities who work towards a fair, just and peaceful society.
This year’s Justice Service took place on Sunday 17th November in the magnificent St Albans Cathedral and was a wonderful and memorable event for me. Months of planning and preparation resulted in a service of uplifting music, a fine sermon and a focus on justice, fairness and integrity.
I was pleased to welcome the Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, many distinguished judges, including a Lord Justice of Appeal, High Court, Circuit, District and Employment judges, who joined the High Sheriff’s procession along with High Sheriff’s from other counties, the Chief Constable and Chief Fire Officer, the Chairmen of Hertfordshire Magistrates’ Benches & Panels, the Chancellor of the Diocese of St Albans, the Chief Legal Officer of Hertfordshire County Council, the President of Hertfordshire Law Society, the Dean of the Law School from the University of Hertfordshire, Barristers and Recorders.
The Mayors and Chairs of the towns, Boroughs and Districts looked splendid in their chains.
I was especially pleased to be joined by leaders and representatives of other faiths who were also warmly welcomed by the Dean. The front of the Order of Service contained a collection of short passages from the scriptures of other faith groups which shared a common message and emphasised the themes of justice, mercy, love and peace.
The Purcell School of Music played 2 Processional Fanfares by Howarth and the Cathedral choir, directed by Master of the Music Andrew Lucas, sang beautifully throughout including the Anthem of the Prayer of St Francis set to music by John Joubert, an arrangement originally written for the Cathedral choir in 1976.
My chaplain Caroline Franks gave a finely crafted sermon, referring back to the Old Testament reading from Isaiah (read by HH Judge Michael Kay QC) and the New Testament story of the Good Samaritan (read by Chief Constable Charlie Hall QPM) and reminding us of the need to care for each other as we affirm our commitment to the cause of justice for all. My children, and Caroline, read the prayers beautifully.
The large congregation stayed for coffee after the service and enjoyed the new Welcome Centre and exploring the Cathedral, and I was pleased to entertain the judges and my family to lunch nearby afterwards.
The Under Sheriff Richard Taylor and Nicola Stokes deserve special thanks for their work in bringing the day together and ensuring that all went perfectly and I am very grateful to them both. It was a day I shall always remember!