Coronavirus shows ‘power of community never more important’, says new Suffolk High Sheriff

Bridget McIntyre is the new High Sheriff of Suffolk. Picture: AMANDA CHURCH/DREAM ON

Bridget McIntyre is the new High Sheriff of Suffolk. Picture: AMANDA CHURCH/DREAM ON - Credit: Archant

For generations, an age-old ceremony has marked the new High Sheriff of Suffolk’s ascendancy to one of the leading roles in the land.

But now one of the area’s most ancient traditions has been forced to adapt - with its latest incumbent sworn in over Skype, due to the coronavirus crisis.

Social entrepreneur and Blossom Charity founder Bridget McIntyre was ‘handed’ the chains of office over video call after the government imposed a nationwide lockdown to protect people’s health during the pandemic.

Whereas the county’s leading legal figures would ordinarily watch her ceremony, this time Judge Martyn Levett and Suffolk Magistrates’ Bench chairman Dawn Girling had to be present by video call, alongside new Under Sheriff for Suffolk Jonathan Mathers and chaplain Steve Fenning.

Organisers of the rather unusual ceremony said the “current circumstances called for a very different approach”.


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However Mrs McIntyre, who was made a MBE in the 2020 New Year’s Honours List for her services to women, will still have the same vital job of representing the Queen in matters of law and order - even if she does admit it will require some “different thinking” in the current crisis.

The 58-year-old, who had a distinguished business career which culminated in her becoming chief executive of an insurance firm and one of only 16 women to be a FTSE 100 executive director, said: “My year as High Sheriff has certainly started very differently.

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“My aim is to find ways to support and thank those on the frontline and the thousands of volunteers keeping the vulnerable in the county safe.

“Doing this from my home will require some quite different thinking. At times like this, the power of community has never been more important.

“As the year develops, I hope I will be able to use my combination of business experience and of working in the charity sector in the role.

“It is a unique opportunity to see Suffolk overall from an independent perspective. I would like to build on the work of others and support and encourage many great organisations.

“I do have a huge interest in rural communities and how they manage the issue of isolation. I believe that diversity can have a very positive impact and I would like to support those who support inclusion of the more marginalised.

“I am also interested in the work done to support people after life takes a unexpected difficult turn and the help that is provided.

“I guess that time will tell over the next few months how I can best serve Suffolk. My thoughts may have to change and I will need to be very flexible in what I am able to do.”

Mrs McIntyre and her husband, Chris, are also looking to focus on the work of environmental charities, as they both share a love of the outdoors and the beauty of Suffolk.

The role of High Sheriff is a non-political role and dates back more than 1,000 years, when it used to include the maintenance of law and order, as well as the return of taxes and revenues due to the Crown.

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