Fonds SC12 - Lerwick Sheriff Court records

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Lerwick Sheriff Court records


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Court books, registers and processes contain details of cases coming before the court as well as records of administrative matters. Records of criminal cases are in the main series of registers and processes until the end of the 19th century. The collection also contains extensive commissary court material, and registers of juvenile courts set up by the 1908 Children Act (c.67). For more details on Sheriff Court records see

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      Sheriff courts in Scotland are second only in importance to the supreme civil and criminal courts. Their records, dating from the 16th century, contain an enormous range of civil, criminal and administrative material. The sheriff was a royal official appointed to help the king establish control in the localities. Sheriffs performed a wide variety of duties, administrative, financial, military as well as judicial. Judicially, the sheriffs dealt with both civil and criminal cases and appeals as well as first-time cases. By 1700 sheriffs heard most of the civil and criminal cases in Scotland. Until the 1740s most of the offices were held on a hereditary basis. From 1748 salaried sheriff deputes who were qualified advocates (i.e. members of the Scottish Bar) were placed in charge of sheriff courts, aided by their own deputies, the sheriffs-substitute. Jurisdiction in small debt cases, testamentary matters, maritime cases and bankruptcies were all added to the sheriffs' workload during the nineteenth century. The deputes and substitutes were the forerunners of the modern sheriffs and sheriffs principal who currently preside over 6 sheriffdoms and 49 sheriff court districts. Sheriffs have continued to acquire new functions during the twentieth century, most notably in recent times in the field of divorce. The records of Lerwick sheriff court are held in the Shetland Archives under charge and superintendence of the Keeper of the Records of Scotland.

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