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.
Who’s Who in the Court
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
Witnesses 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.
The 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
A 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.
Members of the Public
Inside the Court
For legal reasons, we cannot disclose where the accused will be sitting.