Inside a Court Room

Who's Who in Court

The Judge

Judges preside over the court ensuring cases are heard and verdicts returned within a legal framework. The judge will decide on the appropriate sentence in criminal cases or decision in civil cases.  The judge normally sits at the head of the courtroom on a raised platform, which is known as the Bench.  In some cases the judge may sit at the court table in the well of the court.

The accused

The person facing prosecution for the crime is known as the accused.  The formal legal term for the accused is “panel” (Sometimes written as “pannel”).  The word “defendant” is not used.

The lawyers and who they represent

The lawyers sit in the front rows of the benches facing the judge or sit in the well of the court depending on the court or the nature of the proceedings. In criminal cases, a prosecutor from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service presents the case against the accused.  In the High Court the prosecutor is known as the advocate depute, and in the Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court it is the procurator fiscal. The prosecutor normally sits at the table immediately in front of the Bench to the judge’s right-hand side. The accused is normally represented by a solicitor or advocate who sits at the table in front of the Bench to the judge’s left-hand side.

In civil cases, lawyers usually represent the pursuer or petitioner – the individual or body who initiates the action or petition – and the defender or respondent – the other party.

The jury

A jury hears the evidence in serious criminal cases and some civil hearings. In criminal cases, the jury is made up of 15 members of the public chosen at random from the electoral register. In civil cases, there are 12 jurors. They sit in the jury box, which is usually at one side of the courtroom, near the judge.  The names of the public who attend as potential jurors are placed in a glass bowl and picked at random in open court.  Once selected jurors are sworn in and take an oath or affirmation. 

Juror Oath

The jurors raise their right hand and  the clerk of court asks them "Do you swear by Almighty God that you will well and truly try the accused and give a true verdict according to the evidence". The jurors reply: "I do".

Juror Affirmation

The juror is asked to repeat after the clerk of court "I [name], do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will well and truly try the accused and give a true verdict according to the evidence".

The witnesses

Witnesses give the evidence in a case. They stand in the witness box, which is usually at the opposite side of the court to the jury box. Witnesses take an oath or affirmation that they will tell the truth. They can be asked questions by the lawyers or directly by persons who are not represented by lawyers.

Witness Oath

The witness raises his/her hand and repeats after the judge "I swear by Almighty God that I will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

Witness Affirmation

The witness is asked to repeat after the judge " I solemnly, sincerely and truly declare that I will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".      

The Court Officials

The clerk of court assists the judge and assures the smooth running of the court.  The clerk records the proceedings and advises court users on procedures. He or she normally sits at the table immediately in front of the judge, facing into the courtroom.

The court or bar officer or, in the High Court or Court of Session, the macer, calls the accused and witnesses into the courtroom. He or she will show them where to sit or stand, and part of their duty is to help maintain order in the courtroom. The court officer also advises court users.  He or she also takes the judge on and off the Bench.

The Police

In most courtrooms, there will be at least one police officer, who helps maintain order if necessary.

The Media

A section of the area in which the public sit is usually reserved for the media who are there to report cases.  This is normally behind the accused and close to the witness box to enable them to hear proceedings

The Public

Most cases are open to the public. The public seating is usually at the back of the courtroom, facing the judge.

Lady Dorrian installed as new Lord Justice Clerk

The Right Hon. Lady Dorrian has been installed as the most senior female judge in Scottish history at a ceremony held in Parliament House.

A Bench of 14 of her fellow judges, led by Lord Carloway, the Lord President, was convened for the ceremony. Lord Carloway administered the oath of allegiance, the official oath and the judicial oath to Lady Dorrian, and welcomed her to her place on the Bench as Lord Justice Clerk and President of the Second Division of the Court of Session.

He said: “As Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian becomes the most senior woman in Scottish legal history. On the civil side, she brings her many talents to preside over the Second Division and in crime to play a central role in developing the law in and procedure of the High Court of Justiciary. Her work chairing the Sentencing Council will be of particular importance.

“I am sure that all those on the Bench today and those who were not able to join us will all be able to work together in the spirit of true co-operation which is required in order to maintain the high standards of the Scottish Bench and to improve those areas which still require attention.”

Lady Dorrian said: “It is a great honour to be the first woman, the first of many I have no doubt, to be appointed to this great office.”

She thanked all those who had sent her messages of support and said she hoped to justify that encouragement as she worked with her colleagues and others to ensure Scotland had a modern, accessible and efficient legal system which truly met the needs of the people it served.