Having for the last 35 years, operating as an Independent Estate Agent and Community worker, in Bedfordshire, I am very aware of (and have seen first-hand) society’s diverse and complex issues. Therefore, the focus during my shrieval year will be mainly (but not exclusively) on three of these; domestic abuse, addiction and child poverty & deprivation – not easy subjects but, sadly, all very real in Bedfordshire. All of which will no doubt be accentuated by the coronavirus pandemic.
I intend to support, encourage and recognise the statutory organisations, charities, voluntary groups and individuals who work to support and maintain the fabric of our society.
Whilst I will carry out my legal and ceremonial duties with the utmost diligence and vigour, I would also like to raise the profile of the role of High Sheriff in Bedfordshire to ensure its continuing relevance in our ever changing world.
I am looking forward to the opportunities, challenges and experiences ahead of me and bringing people together to make a real and positive difference in and around our wonderful County.
Eric was born in Punjab, India and was brought to the UK by his parents in 1967 where he was educated locally. Eric has continued to live in Bedford with his wife, four sons and four grandchildren. His hobbies include Asian classical music and martial arts, and he continues to practice as Southern Region Area instructor for the Tetsudo Martial Arts Association.
Eric has been a well-respected and well-known face within Bedfordshire for a number of years. He started his working life within the Geophysical Services institute before moving into the insurance industry where he held a number of managerial and financial roles.
Eric’s true calling came in 1996 when he entered the Property and Mortgage sector and established his current business, Gold Crown Property Services. Within this sector, Eric is particularly committed to providing affordable and social housing in Bedfordshire. Following on from this, Eric has sought to introduce business opportunities into local areas which have previously been considered run down and derelict and in 2006, Eric took over the previously derelict Irish Club, on Midland Road in Bedford in an attempt to attract business to the locality. After an extensive refurbishment project, he launched the Midas Bar & Club.
Within the local community, Eric holds roles with several charities and organisations including the Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity (BRCC) for which he is a trustee, founding member of the Bedfordshire Asian Business Association (BABA) and Queens Park Academy School where he is a governor.
In 2013, Eric was appointed as the Chairman of Queens Park Community Organisation (QPCO), an organisation committed to building bridges between Bedford’s diverse communities.
Eric plays an active role in community cohesion and by the hosting of numerous fundraising events, fayres, and activities he has very quickly gained full support of local businesses, residents and the local Community Policing teams. His dedication has always been intent on casting a light onto the melting pot of Bedfordshire’s varied and diverse communities.
Eric is honoured to have been nominated as High Sheriff of Bedfordshire for the forthcoming year and recognises that, despite the joint efforts to keep communities going, there is yet much work to do. The unforeseen effects of the Covid19 pandemic over the past year have brought to the surface the financial, social and emotional hardships faced by many throughout the Borough. Eric passionately feels that it is through Community Cohesion, and in particular through the work of local voluntary groups, that we can start to move towards a recovery phase.
The office of High Sheriff is the oldest continuous secular office under the crown, being at least 1000 years old. The original name given to the office holder was the ‘Shire Reeve’. This royal official was above local factions and therefore able to guard and enforce the Sovereign’s interests in the county.
They were also responsible for administering justice and responsible for collecting both taxes and rent. One of the main functions of the High Sheriff was to bring criminals to justice by raising the ‘hue and cry’. Another, was to keep the Kings peace by raising the ‘posse comitatus’, the full military force of the county. In theory the posse comitatus can still be raised and during both World Wars the High Sheriff’s power to mobilise this was reinvoked in case of emergency.
Whilst the duties of the High Sheriff were once focused on representing the Crown for all matters relating to the judiciary, maintenance of Law and Order, and the collection of taxes, it has rightly adapted and molded itself to fit the needs and requirements of the time. Originally the office also held many of the powers now vested in the Lord-Lieutenant, High Court judges, police, magistrates court and Local Authorities, it is now largely a ceremonial role held for one year.
The traditional dress and regalia worn by High Sheriff’s today represent many of the foundations upon which much of our society is based. The sword carried is a symbol of the Queen’s justice; and the High Sheriff’s badge, displays not only the sword of justice, but also a separate blunted sword to represent mercy. To this day, the annual nomination of High Sheriff’s is made in a meeting of the Lords of the Council in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice presided over by the Lord Chief Justice. The final selection is ratified when the traditional custom of the Sovereign ‘pricking’ the appointee’s name with a bodkin, a tradition said to have begun following an innovation by Elizabeth I who was said to be doing her needlework at the time.
Today, as well as their involvement with the judiciary and the offices of law and order, High Sheriffs perform a number of responsibilities including maintaining a ceremonial presence at official functions, attending Royal visits to the county, acting as Returning Officer for parliamentary elections, appointing an Under Sheriff and nominating a future High Sheriff.
The Office of the High Sheriff is an important part of English history, remaining in existence for more than 1,000 years and adapting to modern society needs. The High Sheriff of the 21st Century still fulfils the ancient role of supporting the shire, upholding its peace and loyalty to the Crown, and stimulating its communities to act in the furtherance of the good of everybody.
Karen is a solicitor with nearly 30 years’ experience specialising in Private Client work, based in Bedford. She is married to Peter and has two grown-up children.
Karen has been a school governor for several years of a special needs school in Bedfordshire and is currently their Chair of Governors.
She was Hon. Secretary of the Law Society in Bedfordshire for over 20 years, a position she held alongside many senior lawyers who acted as President during her tenure.
Pastor Ottakal Chackochen was born in Kerala, India, into a Christian family which traces its Christian roots to the beginning of Christianity with the arrival of Apostle Thomas in Kerala. Having completed his primary, secondary and tertiary schooling at St. Claire’s Convent Primary, St. Thomas High School & College in Thrissur in Kerala, he read theology at Spicer University in Pune, India. He continued postgraduate theology studies at Newbold College, Bracknell, and Andrews University in Michigan in the United States.
On completing studies, he began his pastoral ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1985. He ministered in several churches in London, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire. Currently, he serves as the minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bedford along with responsibilities in London and Buckinghamsire.
Pastor Chackochen is married to Judith Sherine Chackochen and have four grown-up children, Matthew, Philip, Andrew and Stephen.