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About the Criminal Justice System

Scotland's criminal justice system is renowned for its independence, accessibility and service to communities.

There are four levels of court in the Scottish criminal justice system:

The High Court

When sitting as a court of first instance, it deals with the most serious crimes such as murder, rape, culpable homicide, armed robbery, drug trafficking and serious sexual offences, particularly those involving children. Cases are presided over by a single Judge and tried by a jury of fifteen men and women.

Sheriff and Jury

Cases heard here are presided over by a sheriff and tried by a jury of fifteen men and women. A sheriff court can impose custodial sentences of up to five years.

Sheriff and Summary

In sheriff summary cases a sheriff determines whether an accused person is guilty or innocent, in addition to presiding over the trial and sentencing the accused. A sheriff summary court can impose a custodial sentence of up to one year, and impose a fine of up to £10,000.

Justice of the Peace courts

The Justice of the Peace determines whether an accused person is guilty or innocent, in addition to presiding over the trial and sentencing the accused. The Justice of the Peace is advised on points of law by a qualified legal adviser.

Justices of the Peace are a crucial part of our criminal justice system, dealing with many of the types of crime that impact most on our communities.

You can find out more information about the court system by visiting the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service website.