6. Sheriff courts
Sheriff courts are local courts of civil jurisdiction in Scotland. They also have jurisdiction in criminal law cases. For the 2012-13 period there were 49 sheriff courts, grouped into six sheriffdoms. Most civil law cases are heard before a sheriff. Each sheriffdom has a sheriff principal - a senior judicial officer who hears civil law case appeals, determines certain types of inquiry, performs statutory administrative functions and also has responsibility for the effective and efficient disposal of business in the sheriff and Justice of the Peace courts within the sheriffdom.
Sheriff courts also deal with commissary business relating to succession and access to a deceased person's estate. Commissary work mainly involves issuing confirmations, which are legal documents sometimes required by organisations such as banks, before they can release money and other property that belonged to someone who has died.
Appeals of civil cases which have been disposed in the sheriff courts can be made to the sheriff principal or the Inner House of the Court of Session, depending on the procedure used:
- Small claim appeals must be made to the sheriff principal whose decision is final
- Summary cause appeals must also be made to the sheriff principal in the first instance but the judgment of the sheriff principal may, if they certify the case as suitable, be appealed to the Inner House of the Court of Session
- Ordinary cause appellants may in some circumstances appeal to either the sheriff principal or the Court of Session. Where the case is appealed to the sheriff principal it may, in some circumstances, be further appealed to the Court of Session.
Figure 1: Location of the sheriff courts in Scotland
The sheriff courts at Dornoch, Kirkcudbright and Rothesay closed in November 2013. Further information on the future of court structures in Scotland is available from: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/docs/default-source/scs-consultation-court-structures/response_to_the_consultation_and_recommendationspdf.pdf
Email: Howard Hooper