With ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away!’ sweeping the nation, bailiffs, sheriff officers, and repo men are a hot topic of discussion. Many of our clients and the people who phone our team for advice are under the impression that there are no ‘bailiffs’ in Scotland.
This statement might be ‘technically’ correct, as they go by another name, but for all intents and purposes, it is false. Bailiffs do exist in Scotland, and they are called sheriff officers. The purpose of these officers and the way in which they work are essentially identical.
In this article, we will outline what a sheriff officer is, what they do, as well as what they can and cannot do. If you are under threat from sheriff officers
What Is a Sheriff Officer?
A Sheriff Officer (often, although unofficially, known as a bailiff) works for the Scottish Sheriff Court and is given the task of serving documents and enforcing court orders by undertaking evictions or seizing possessions. They will work for a larger firm or will be self-employed and can only undertake actions when they have been granted a court order.
How Does a Sheriff Officer Work?
Sheriff officers are a bit of a last resort for creditors. They can only be deployed in situations where they have been granted a court order to carry out the work, and this will only be granted after several attempts have been made to collect the money.
The officers will arrive at your home, or in some cases your place of work, and issue you with court orders. You will first issue you with a ‘Charge to Pay’, or ‘Charge for Payment’, and they can only arrive at your property or workplace two weeks after this, having also given you another four days notice before arrival.
The officers can be deployed to enforce any of the following court orders;
- Property arguments
- Debt collection
- Matters related to adoption or divorce
- To remove endangered children or violent partners
- Personally distribute witness citations or court documents, when absolute proof they were successfully delivered it required.
Many people who contact our company are who recognise that ‘bailiffs’ do exist in Scotland, but massively overstate what powers they have. Sheriff officers cannot break into your home using excessive force (in fact, they can only attempt to force their way in at all with a specific court order to do so, and this is not common).
However, an important thing to note is that any attempt to obstruct the sheriff officer from carrying out their duties could result in a breach of the peace charge against you. In some cases, the sheriff officers will bring police with them. The police cannot help the sheriff officers carry out their duties, but they can arrest you in the event you attempt to stop them.
What Can a Sheriff Officer Do?
Sheriff officers have a wide range of powers which can vary depending on what order they have been issued. However, here is a list of some general powers that they have at their disposal:
- When they have a specific order, they can force their way into your home, with reasonable force. They can force open a door, break a lock, or smash a window.
- Sheriff officers can enter your property or workplace when you are not there, but only to carry out an eviction, to reclaim property, or to ensure that specific work has been done.
- With ‘exceptional attachment’ a sheriff officer can take property to reclaim a debt. However, they cannot take items “essential to everyday life”, such as beds or clothing.
- If you have received a court order for eviction but refuse to leave, sheriff officers have the right to physically remove you from the premises.
What a Sheriff Officer Cannot Do?
Sheriff officers have to operate within very stringent guidelines. There are certain rules they will have to follow while undertaking their work, as will be listed below;
- They cannot enter a property where the only person inside is under sixteen.
- They cannot enter a property when the person inside does not understand English.
- They cannot enter a property where the only occupant is physically or mentally disabled to the point they do not understand what is happening.
- Generally, they cannot come to your residence at night, unless they are responding to an order where someone could be in danger.
- If a court sheriff has been given ‘exceptional attachment’ they can break into your home, but if no one is there they cannot take property.
How to Handle a Sheriff Officer
If a sheriff officer arrives at your premises the first thing you should do is ask to see their identification. They have to show you it upon request. The document should be in a red booklet with a photograph of the officer, a crest of the Scottish court service, and the signature of the sheriff clerk who oversees the area they work in.
If they have the right identification, the best course of action is to comply with all of their demands – provided they are within the guidelines stated above. You can very easily be arrested for breach of the peace if you try and resist anything they have the right to do, which could carry a heavy fine, and in extreme cases, jail time.
Are You at Risk of a Visit from Sheriff Officers?
If you are watching ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away’ and think it does not apply to you in Scotland, then unfortunately this is not the case.
If you have already received intimidating letters from sheriff officers, then your situation may seem hopeless. We promise you, it is not. There is always something that can be done.
If you are struggling with unmanageable debt and are at the point of facing eviction, or having your property seized, then it is absolutely essential that you get in touch with us as soon as possible. Our team will work tirelessly to help in any way we can and have helped people escape some incredibly difficult situations, but we need some details to get started.
Give us a call now on 0800 808 5124 so that we can get some details on your situation. Alternatively, fill in our debt calculator, and we will be in touch as soon as possible.