Who's who at the Sheriff Court

Simple procedure and summary cause actions are invariably held in public. The sheriff clerk or bar officer should be able to advise on which courtroom a case will call in.

At the court, advisers and clients may encounter any or all of the following: sheriffs, sheriff clerks, bar officers, and lay representatives.

This content applies to Scotland

Sheriffs

The sheriff is the judge who will hear the case and decide the claim. Sheriffs sit at the front of the court facing the public. They will usually wear a wig and gown although when hearing small claims many dispense with this formality. They should be addressed as 'my Lord' or 'your Ladyship'.

Sheriff clerks

Sheriff clerks are responsible for the organisation of the work of the sheriff court. In the courtroom itself s/he calls out the case name and records the decision of the sheriff. In the sheriff clerks' office s/he will give advice on court procedures and help with filling out court forms (although s/he does not give legal advice).

Bar officers

Bar officers are responsible for keeping order in the court and for various practical matters such as finding out if someone is in the right court.

Lay representation in the sheriff courts

Representation in the sheriff court is usually by solicitors, advocates or by the parties themselves. However in simple procedure and summary cause actions it is possible for a lay representative, someone not legally qualified, to appear in the proceedings.

In simple procedure a lay representative may appear on behalf of a party to the action. [1] However the sheriff has to be satisfied that the person is a suitable person to act as a representative and that s/he has been authorised to do so. [2]

The Home Owner and Debtor Protection (Scotland) Act 2010 amends the Conveyancing and Feudal Reform (Scotland) Act 1970 by introducing approved lay representation in mortgage arrears cases. [3] Where a creditor is seeking repossession arising from the default on a standard security agreement, an approved lay representative can appear on behalf of the debtor or entitled resident in court at ordinary cause level, but using summary procedure. The approved lay representative must convince the sheriff at all times that they are a suitable person to represent the entitled resident or debtor. [4]

It is important that lay representatives are well versed in court procedures, protocol and jargon, although some sheriffs will treat lay representatives sympathetically and will not expect them to have as good a knowledge of procedure as a solicitor. A lay representative will make the case for her/his client and the sheriff will address the representative, not the client. However if the lay representative is unsure of anything there is no reason why s/he cannot ask the sheriff for time to consult with the client.

Advisers should check whether there is an in-court adviser service in their local sheriff court that may provide representation.

Short hand writers

Short hand writers take down a word for word record of what has been said in court. It is normally the pursuer who will arrange this, but this can vary so it is best to check with the sheriff clerk before the case calls in court.

Last updated: 11 June 2018

Footnotes

  • [1]

    Rule 2.1(1) Act of Sederunt (Small Claims Rules) 2002, SSI 2002/133

  • [2]

    Rule 2.1(3) Act of Sederunt (Small Claims Rules) 2002, SSI 2002/133

  • [3]

    s(7)(1) The Home Owner and Debtor Protection (Scotland) Act 2010

  • [4]

    s24E(2) The Conveyancing and Feudal Reform (Scotland) Act 1970