A Sheriff is an authorised officer of the court able to take action to recover money owing due to court fines, infringements at warrant stage, or judgement debts.
In order to recover payment owing, they have the power to:
- enter your home (by force if required) to take items to be sold to pay the fines, infringements or judgement debt. (But they can't take basic household furniture required for essential needs.)
- clamp your car or other vehicle until the fines or infringements are paid, or a payment arrangement made
- suspend your drivers licence or vehicle registration until the fine or infringement is paid, or a payment arrangement made
- sell your house - but only as a last resort.
If a warrant for a fine or infringement remains outstanding, and a payment arrangement has not been made, the sheriff has the power to arrest you. Then:
- the matter will be heard in Court, and in extreme cases could result in imprisonment
- or the Court may release you on a Community Work Permit, if suitable.
Note this doesn't happen in cases of debt.
If you have had contact with a Sheriff, it is very important to seek legal advice quickly or see a Financial Counsellor. A Financial Counsellor will help you assess what property you have that may be at risk, assist you to get a payment arrangement accepted on fines or infringements, or have these matters heard in a Special Circumstances hearing - which could result in the amounts due being reduced.
A Financial Counsellor can also advise you of your options regarding judgement debts - amounts a court has decided can be pursued through recovery action.