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Report backs retention of sheriffs
(Pic: Shutterstock)

21 Mar 2024 / justice Print

Report backs retention of sheriffs

A report published by the Department of Justice has recommended retaining the office of sheriff, describing it as “an effective debt-collection mechanism”.

Sheriffs enforce court orders obtained by a creditor, while they also undertake debt recovery on behalf of Revenue.

The Sheriff Review Group Report was commissioned in the wake of financial difficulties suffered by sheriffs during COVID-19 restrictions.

While sheriffs are appointed by Government after public competitions, they are not public servants, and are paid mainly on a commission or fee basis, commonly known as ‘poundage’.


The report makes 27 recommendations, which it says are aimed at supporting, modernising, and enhancing trust in the service.

It calls for a detailed code of practice governing sheriffs’ public and private debt-enforcement activity to be drawn up and implemented.

The report backs giving all sheriffs debt-enforcement powers on behalf of public bodies other than Revenue.

It also says that a person should not be eligible for appointment as sheriff “unless he or she is a barrister or solicitor who has practised for not less than five years”.


The report recommends that sheriff staff involved in enforcement activity should hold a relevant licence from the Private Security Authority.

It also sets out the criteria that should govern when a sheriff should cease to hold office.

The review group recommends “a more structured overall approach to inspection, accountability, audit, and oversight of the sheriff service” – including a duty on each sheriff to submit an annual report.

It says that sheriffs should be required to make a statutory declaration before the High Court, in which they undertake always to act fairly and impartially in performing their functions and exercising their powers.

The report also calls for a modernisation of the law governing sheriffs, and the repeal of obsolete statutes.

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