Sheriff court

A sheriff court is the principal local civil and criminal court in Scotland, with exclusive jurisdiction over all civil cases with a monetary value up to £100,000, and with the jurisdiction to hear any criminal case except treason, murder, and rape which are in the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court of Justiciary. Though the sheriff courts have concurrent jurisdiction with the High Court over armed robbery, drug trafficking, and sexual offences involving children, the vast majority of these cases are heard by the High Court. Each court serves a sheriff court district within one of the six sheriffdoms of Scotland. Each sheriff court is presided over by a sheriff, who is a legally qualified judge, and part of the judiciary of Scotland.

Sheriff court
Royal Court of Arms of the United Kingdom as used by the Courts in Scotland
JurisdictionSheriff court districts in six sheriffdoms of Scotland
Composition methodAppointed by Monarch on recommendation of First Minister of Scotland, who is given a recommendation from the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland
Authorized by
Appeals to
Judge term length
  • Permanent sheriffs: Life tenure with mandatory retirement at 70
  • Part-time sheriffs: 5 years subject to reappointment

Sheriff courts hear civil cases as a bench trial without a jury, and make determinations and judgments alone. However, the specialist all-Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court (based in Edinburgh) has the ability to hear cases at proof with a jury of twelve. Sheriff courts hear criminal trials on complaint as a bench trial for summary offences, and as a trial with a jury of fifteen for indictable offences. Where a person is convicted following a case heard on complaint they can be sentenced to a maximum of twelve months imprisonment and/or a £10,000 fine, and in solemn cases 5 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine.

Judgments of the sheriff courts in criminal offences handled through summary procedures, and civil cases handled through small claims and summary process, can be appealed to the Sheriff Appeal Court. Criminal offences heard on indictment through solemn procedure are appealed to the High Court of Justiciary. Other civil actions are appealed to the Inner House of the Court of Session.

Sheriff courts deal with myriad legal procedures which include: