The Society of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers

The Professional Association of Judicial Officers

Affiliated to Union Internationale des Huissiers de Justice et Officiers Judiciaires

Code of Practice

1. A Messenger-at-Arms or Sheriff Officer must at all times be aware that, above all else, his authority and duties are those of an officer of the court, and he must not act in any way which subordinates him to the instructing party or otherwise conflicts with the independent performance of his office. Officers of Court serve the courts and the public. They must uphold the legal principle that their duty is not to refuse to serve any document required under any legal process or to execute diligence, except where it is not reasonably practicable to do so (as more fully detailed in the Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officer Rules 1991). To fulfill these duties, Officers of Court are granted extraordinary powers by judicial warrants or under statutes. The public and their colleagues therefore have the right to expect the highest standards of conduct from them.

2. This Code sets out the principles which guide Officers of Court. It does not seek to restrict their discretion: rather, it aims to define the parameters of conduct within which that discretion should be exercised. Any breach of the principles in this Code may result in action being taken against them. In serious cases, this could involve deprivation of office.

3. Officers of Court, whether engaged in the performance of official or unofficial business, should do nothing to lessen public confidence in the profession. Any allegation of misconduct, brought to the attention of the Society of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers, which could, if proved, bring discredit to the profession of Officer of Court, should be investigated by the Society, to establish if a breach of the Code could have occurred and whether a referral for formal disciplinary action is appropriate, in terms of the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987 and the Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers Rules 1991.

4. Officers of Court are required to comply with all statutory provisions in operation at the material time. In particular, the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987, the Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers Rules 1991, the Debt Arrangement and Attachment (Scotland) Act 2002, the Bankruptcy and Diligence etc. (Scotland) Act 2007 and the Acts of Sederunt Fees of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers regulate their functions and conduct. Furthermore, all Officers of Court are required to execute their duties in accordance with the Constitution and Bye-Laws of the Society of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers. (Copies of these are available on the Society’s website,, or by contacting the Society’s office at 8-12 Torphichen Street, Edinburgh EH3 8JQ (telephone 0131 228 2866).)

5. Officers of Court are, in all circumstances, to act as follows:

a) Honesty and integrity

Officers of Court must be open, honest and truthful in their dealings, to the full extent that their duties of confidentiality permit. They must not be improperly beholden to any person or institution, and should avoid giving any impression of being improperly influenced by any such party. They must always discharge their duties with integrity.

b) Fairness and impartiality

Officers of Court have a particular responsibility to act with fairness and impartiality in all their dealings with members of the public and their colleagues.

c) Politeness and tolerance

Officers of Court should treat their colleagues and members of the public with courtesy and respect. In particular, officers must avoid favouritism of an individual or group, all forms of harassment, victimisation or unreasonable discrimination, and overbearing conduct to a colleague, particularly to one junior in experience.

d) Use of force and of authority

Officers of Court must never knowingly use more force than is reasonable; nor should they ever abuse in any way the authority provided by their commissions or the terms of particular warrants.

e) Performance of duties

Officers of Court should be conscientious and diligent in the performance of their duties. They must execute lawful instructions as promptly as is reasonable, and with all necessary skill.

f) Lawful instructions

Unless there is good and sufficient cause to do otherwise, Officers of Court must comply with all lawful instructions and abide by the provisions of all relevant statutory provisions. Officers of Court should support their colleagues in the execution of their lawful duties. They should oppose any improper behaviour and report any manifest instances of it to the appropriate authorities.

g) Confidentiality

Private information which comes into the possession of Officers of Court in the course of their official duties must be treated as confidential. Such information should not be used for personal benefit; nor should it be divulged to other parties, except in the proper course of lawful instructions. Officers of Court should also treat all information about their own clients as being confidential, unless they are authorized to disclose such information.

h) Criminal offences

Officers of Court must report to the Secretary of the Society of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers, within 21 days of the relevant date, the bringing of any proceedings against them for a criminal offence and any subsequent conviction.

i) Property

Officers of Court should exercise all reasonable care to prevent loss or damage to other people’s property while in the execution of their duties.

j) Sobriety

Officers of Court should not be affected by, or consume, alcohol or drugs, when engaged in the performance of their duties.

k) Appearance

Officers of Court should be clean and tidy and present themselves in smart business attire whilst engaged in the execution of their duties.

l) Marketing of businesses

Officers of Court should not claim superiority for their services or practice over those of another officer; compare their fees with those of another officer; or identify their clients in any marketing communication, without the consent of any client so identified.

Society of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers