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 Michael Stuart

Tuesday, 12 December, 2017
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Edinburgh today (12 December 2017) Lady Scott sentenced Michael Stuart to a total of eight years imprisonment after the accused was found guilty of rape and assault offences. On sentencing Lady Scott made the following statement in court:

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HMA v Duncan Burns

Tuesday, 12 December, 2017
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Glasgow today (12 December 2017) Lord Mulholland sentenced Duncan Burns to five years imprisonment after the accused was found guilty of rape. On sentencing Lord Mulholland made the following statement in court:

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HMA v Tomas Gulbinavicius and Janis Karajevs

Friday, 8 December, 2017
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Edinburgh today (8 December 2017) Lord Uist sentenced Tomas Gulbinavicius and Janis Karajevs to life imprisonment (punishment part 13 years and 14 years respectively) after the accused were found guilty of murder. On sentencing Lord Uist made the following statement in court:

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HMA v Ralph Goldie

Thursday, 30 November, 2017
Sentencing Statements

At Glasgow High Court today (30 November 2017) Lord Arthurson sentenced Ralph Goldie to life imprisonment (punishment part 14 years) after the accused was found guilty of murder and assault to severe injury. On sentencing Lord Arthurson made the following statement in court:

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HMA v Eric Finlayson

Tuesday, 28 November, 2017
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Edinburgh today (28 November 2017) Lord Boyd of Duncansby sentenced Eric Finlayson to 3 years and 6 months imprisonment and disqualified him from driving for 7 years after the accused pled guilty to causing death by dangerous driving. On sentencing Lord Boyd made the following statement in court:

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