Sheriffs

Judicial and administrative duties

Ayr Sheriff CourtClick to enlarge image

Sheriffs deal with the majority of civil and criminal court cases in Scotland, Currently, there are 142 permanent or resident sheriffs sitting in 39 courts in towns and cities across the country. Floating sheriffs move between courts, sitting wherever they are needed. As the jurisdiction of the ancient office of sheriff is so vast, sheriffs must have a grasp of every aspect of law.

The main role of sheriffs is to sit as a trial judge, though they do have some appellate functions. The criminal jurisdiction of sheriffs is both summary (less serious matters where the sheriff sits alone) and solemn (more serious offences where the sheriff sits with a jury of 15 men and women). In summary cases, sheriffs may impose a maximum prison sentence of 12 months or a fine of up to £10,000. In solemn cases, sheriffs can deal with any crimes except murder, rape and treason. The maximum penalty a sheriff may impose in solemn proceedings is five years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine. Sheriffs also have a range of alternative disposals, including community service and probation.

In civil cases, the sheriff court has jurisdiction for all claims under £5,000. Otherwise, the jurisdiction of the court is almost the same as the Court of Session.  There is no financial upper limit in the sheriff court.  Sheriffs deal with many complex and difficult civil cases, including cases involving debt, claims for compensation, contract disputes, bankruptcy, company liquidation, eviction and anti-social behaviour. They hear almost all family actions – including divorce, child welfare and adoptions – and have important functions in relation to children’s hearings.

Many statutory appeals and applications are made to sheriffs. These can involve licensing, gaming, public order, gun control, education and adults with incapacity. Sheriffs conduct fatal accident inquiries into sudden or suspicious deaths, and may make findings and recommendations in the public interest.

In addition, sheriffs have numerous administrative, quasi-judicial and advisory responsibilities.  When sitting in court sheriffs wear a black gown and wig.

For more information about the office of sheriff click here.

 Appointment 

 Permanent sheriffs are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the First Minister on the recommendation of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland and in consultation with the Lord President. They must have been qualified as an advocate or solicitor for at least ten years.

Below is a list of sheriffs, the court they are based in and an indication of whether they are resident (R) or floating (F).

HMA v ANDREW MATHESON SINCLAIR

Tuesday, 9 December, 2014
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Glasgow on 9 December 2014, Lord Armstrong sentenced Andrew Sinclair to four years imprisonment after the accused pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving.

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HMA v JOSEPH MARTIN McMULLAN

Tuesday, 9 December, 2014
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 9 December 2014, Lord Uist sentenced Joseph McMullan to seven years imprisonment after the accused was convicted of rape, attempted rape and indecent assault.

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HMA v DANIEL ROBERT WELSH

Monday, 8 December, 2014
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 8 December 2014, Lady Rae imposed upon Daniel Welsh an Order for Lifelong Restriction with a punishment part of four years and six months after the accused pleaded guilty to rape.

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PF AIRDRIE v DAVID CARMICHAEL

Friday, 5 December, 2014
Sentencing Statements

At Airdrie Sheriff Court on 5 December 2014, Sheriff Robert Dickson sentenced David Carmichael to seven months in prison after the police officer was convicted of wilful neglect of duty.

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HMA v JOHAR JAVEED MIRZA

Friday, 5 December, 2014
Sentencing Statements

At Glasgow Sheriff Court on 5 December 2014, Sheriff John Beckett QC sentenced Johar Javeed Mirza to three years imprisonment after the accused was convicted of assault to injury with intent to rape.

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