The majority of criminal and civil cases in Scotland are heard in the sheriff court. Most sheriffs are resident to a particular court, but some float between courts, sitting wherever they are required.


Criminal cases

Sheriffs can deal with any crimes except murder, rape and treason. There are two types of criminal procedure in Scotland: solemn procedure (for more serious offences) and summary procedure. In solemn cases, when a trial is held against a person accused of a crime, a jury decides the verdict. In summary cases the sheriff, sitting alone, decides the verdict.

Maximum penalties available to a sheriff are set by law. See the Scottish Sentencing Council’s website for more information on maximum sentences and the range of available sentences.

Civil cases

In civil cases, all cases with a value of £100,000 or less must be heard in the sheriff court, however, there is no upper limit to the value of the cases that can be heard here. Sheriffs deal with many complex and difficult cases, including those involving debt, compensation, contract disputes, bankruptcy, company liquidation, eviction and anti-social behaviour. They hear almost all family actions, such as divorce, child welfare and adoptions, and preside over appeals or disputes from children’s hearings. More information is available on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website.

There are many different legal appeals and applications made to sheriffs including those in relation to licensing, gaming, gun control, and adults with incapacity.

Sheriff Appeal Court

The Sheriff Appeal Court sits as both a criminal and civil court.


More information in relation to what types of cases are appealed to the Court is available:


Sheriff Appeal Court – Criminal


Sheriff Appeal Court – Civil.


See a list of the appeal sheriffs.


All-Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court (ASSPIC)

This Court deals quickly and efficiently with cases from across Scotland and is open to individuals representing themselves. Read more about how it operates including guidance and orders. The sheriffs appointed to hear ASSPIC cases are: Sheriff Robert Fife; Sheriff Kenneth McGowan; Sheriff Christopher Dickson; Sheriff John Mundy; Sheriff Douglas Keir and Sheriff Kenneth Campbell.

Fatal Accident Inquiries

Sheriffs conduct fatal accident inquiries into sudden or suspicious deaths, and may make recommendations in the public interest. More information is available on the Scottish Government website

They also have numerous administrative and advisory responsibilities, for example managing cases or sitting on justice organisations such as the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

More information

For more information see the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland website


Read about how sheriffs are appointed.

Sheriffs and Summary Sheriffs Association

Sheriffs and summary sheriffs in Scotland have formed an independent association which represents, safeguards and promotes the interests and welfare of their members and considers matters relating to the law and the administration of justice in Scotland. Read more about the Sheriffs and Summary Sheriffs Association.