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Sheriff Court

In the Sheriff Courts of Scotland, criminal trials can be broken down into two types of procedure:

  • Summary Procedure: Where a Sheriff hears all the evidence in a case and decides on both outcome (verdict) and sentencing. Typical types of crime heard at this level include: some assaults, property offences, theft and some sexual offences.
  • Solemn Procedure (or jury trial): Where a trial is heard before a Sheriff and a jury. The jury decide on the verdict after hearing all the evidence and the Sheriff advises on points of law and delivers the sentence. Typical types of crime heard at this level include: serious assault, serious sexual assault and fire-raising. Sentencing powers here are greater than those available in summary procedure.Outside a sheriff court

Who’s Who in the Court

Sheriff

Sheriffs are experienced in law and ensure that the law is complied with. They are full-time salaried judges appointed by the Crown. In the Sheriff Courts it is a Sheriff that sits 'on the bench' (a raised platform in the courtroom).

Clerk of Court

Clerk of CourtThe Clerk of Court calls the cases, records the court proceedings, and advises on court procedures.

Witnesses

Witness in courtWitnesses can be Crown witnesses (called by the Procurator Fiscal) or defence witnesses (called by the accused, or his/her solicitor). Witnesses must not enter the courtroom until asked to do so by the Court Officer. Your local Witness Service will be able to give you more detailed information on being a witness.

Fiscal (Prosecutor)

Procurator fiscal in courtThe Procurator Fiscal prepares the case against the person charged with the crime in the Sheriff Court. They decide on whether a case is brought to court based on the amount of evidence and whether it is in the public interest.

Defence (Agent) Lawyer

Defence AgentA lawyer normally represents the accused, although they can represent themselves. If the accused is pleading guilty, the lawyer can provide background information on their behalf. If pleading not guilty the lawyer defends the accused in court.

Jury

JuryThe jury is made up of 15 members of the public, chosen at random, to decide on the verdict based on the facts of the case (a jury is used only in trials involving solemn procedure).

Members of the Public

Empty public gallery in courtAll courts have public seating areas and are usually open for the public to listen to a trial.  Your local court will advise if individual trials are closed to the public.

Police

Police officers outside courtIn most courtrooms there will be at least one police officer.

Court Official

Court OfficialThe court officer escorts the witness in/out of the courtroom and sits nearby whilst evidence is being given.  They also escort the Sheriff on/off the Bench.

Inside the Court

Each Court is different.  You can see a photo and diagram of a typical court below.
Empty Court

Sheriff Court

For legal reasons, we cannot disclose where the accused will be sitting.


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