FORMER Chief Constable of Dorset Police Jane Stichbury is the county’s new High Sheriff.

She has taken over the role from Catriona Payne.

Mrs Stichbury was the first woman chief constable of Dorset Police, appointed in 1999.

Her new role saw her make her declaration of office at a special ceremony in Blandford.

Mrs Stichbury, from Ashley Heath, was announced as the nominated High Sheriff for 2014/15 at the historical service, known as The High Sheriff’s Declaration.

The High Sheriff supports the judiciary and the Crown and actively lends support and encouragement to crime prevention agencies, the emergency services and the voluntary sector. During the ceremony, the former High Sheriff, Catriona Payne, presented the Key of the Poole Town Gaol to Mrs Stichbury, who also received a sword from former High Sheriff Jeremy Pope.

The Office of High Sheriff is an independent, non-political royal appointment for a single year.

The origins of the office date back to Saxon times, when the ‘Shire Reeve’ was responsible to the king for the maintenance of law and order within the county, and for the collection and return of taxes owed to the Crown.

Today there are 55 High Sheriffs serving the counties of England and Wales each year.

The High Sheriff is selected from the List of Sheriffs for England and Wales and is carried out on a voluntary basis with no part of the expense falling on the public purse.

Katharine Jones, partner at Humphries Kirk LLP, is the current Under Sheriff and the High Sheriff can be contacted through her office at 40 High West Street, Dorchester.