The Society of Messengers-at-Arms
and Sheriff Officers

The Society of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers, established in 1922, is the only organisation which represents the interests of Scottish officers of court and acts as a channel of communication between officers of court, the legal professions, prospective clients and various authorities concerned with the execution of civil court warrants, within Scotland.

The Society continuously strives to enhance the profession by setting the highest standards for its membership. All members are required to abide by the Society’s Constitution and Code of Professional Ethics, thus ensuring confidentiality and good business practice. Comprehensive training courses designed to cover the legislation surrounding the duties of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers exist in order to train and prepare candidates for their professional examinations, which are set and regulated by an independent Examination Board.

The Society is a member of the Union Internationale des Huissiers de Justice et Officiers Judiciaires, which is a worldwide association of civil officers of court. The Society has a permanent member who regularly attends Union Internationale meetings and provides a flow of information relating to international policies and matters affecting the profession.

Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers

A Messenger-at-Arms is an officer of the Court of Session which is the supreme civil court in Scotland. A Messenger-at-Arms can travel anywhere in Scotland and can serve documents and enforce court orders of the supreme court.

A Sheriff Officer is an officer of the regional civil court. Scotland is geographically divided into six sheriffdoms and 49 local sheriff court districts. Unlike a Messenger-at-Arms, a Sheriff Officer can only operate in the geographical area for which he holds a commission.

Messengers-at-Arms & Sheriff Officers are employed within private business partnerships with fees charged being regulated by government statute.

The History of the Profession

The offices of Messenger-at-Arms and Sheriff Officer can be traced back several hundred years, long before the creation of our existing professional police force. Originally known by the title, Officer of the King, the office of Messenger-at-Arms is a public one under the crown and holders of it form part of the corps of Her Majesty’s Officers of Arms. Records from the year 1510 show that by that time Messengers-at-Arms were under the control and discipline of the Lord Lyon King of Arms. Since then, all holders of the office have been appointed by the Lord Lyon, and all appointments by him are now made on the recommendation of the Court of Session. All Messengers-at-Arms, as a condition of their appointment, require to hold a commission as a Sheriff Officer.

For centuries the Sheriff, by virtue of his position as the local officer of the crown, has appointed controlled and disciplined officers of court (now termed Sheriff Officers). The office of Sheriff Officer is probably one of the oldest in the Scottish legal system since it is believed to have been developed from the pre-feudal office of the Mair.

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