Sheriffs working in the courts of British Columbia hold the oldest position of authority within our justice system. The office of the sheriff dates back to Britain's Saxon era when he was the king's chief administrator and officer within a bailiwick and had the power to act as constable, judge, jailer, executioner and coroner. Since that time, all of his jurisdictional duties have evolved into separate offices of authority except for the sheriff's principle mandate to serve as a court officer for the Crown.
This ancient office was one of the earliest government posts established within the Colony of Vancouver Island and preceded the appointment of the first colonial police force. Since then, little has been written about British Columbia's sheriffs and the information that exists is scattered throughout a variety of archival sources. That is, until now.
David Smith's extensively cited historical account of the sheriff in British Columbia took him more than twenty years to research and features portraits of the early county sheriffs and a collector's reference to the uniforms, badges and insignia of the sheriff. One chapter alone is devoted to capital punishment, as it was the sheriff's duty to carry out all court orders including hanging anyone condemned to death.