A sheriff officer might be called upon by creditors to recover a debt, which is known as enforcing ‘diligence’. If a ‘Charge to Pay’ or a ‘Charge for Payment’ order – which instructs you to pay the full debt within a certain time period, generally 14 days – has been issued, any diligence can be enforced by the sheriff officer. This diligence includes recovering goods (such as hire purchase items), monetary debt that is owed or the repossession of your home. Upon instruction from the creditor, sheriff officers can reach an agreement on a suitable arrangement to avoid taking further action. In the case of enforcing ‘diligence’, the more time passes the more powers are awarded to the sheriff officer.
If a sheriff officer comes to your home or workplace, you are certainly within your right to ask for proof of identity before going any further. For identification purposes, all sheriff officers have a red identity booklet containing:
- A photograph
- The Scottish court service crest
- The sheriff clerk’s signature
If you ask to see this booklet, the sheriff officer is required to show it to you. You can also request to see the document granting them access to the property. They must provide you with advance notice before they come to enforce an eviction and cannot do so at night unless they have a warrant permitting them to enter to remove a child who is in danger.
Sheriff officers can use ‘necessary reasonable force’ to enter the home or workplace if you refuse to let them in (with permission from the court). This includes forcing the door open, breaking the lock and breaking the window. Preventing the officer from entering can lead to you receiving a charge of breaching the peace.
If they come when you are not there, the sheriff officer can only force entry if they need to carry out an eviction, retrieve property or ensure that certain work has been carried out.
If you have any grievances with the conduct of the sheriff officer you can request an explanation from the firm that employs them. If you don’t receive an answer that you are satisfied with, you can make a complaint to the Sheriff Principal. If you do this, there will be an investigation.
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