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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Summary proceedings (Sc): Proceedings before the sheriff

The proceedings will be conducted on a formal basis in open court.

Addressing the sheriff

It is customary to stand and bow when the sheriff enters the court. You should also bowto the sheriff both before and after addressing him.

During the hearing all comments must be directed at the sheriff who must always beaddressed as “M’Lord”, “M’Lady” or “Your Lordship/YourLadyship”. For example in your opening submission you should say “M’Lord,Mrs Brown was assessed….”.

In any reply made to a question from the sheriff you should for example say “Yes,M’Lady”.

In any comments made to the sheriff the word “you” should be substituted for amore formal style of address. For example you should say “Your Lordship willsee” instead of just saying, “You will see”.

Conducting the hearing

You will notice that members of the legal profession are extremely polite when theyaddress the sheriff. You should adopt a similar approach. It would be disrespectful, iffor example, you were to turn your back to the sheriff in order to retrieve some of yourpapers.

As a basic rule on procedural matters always regard the sheriff as being correct. You willgain nothing from arguing with him.

When, on very rare occasions, you do find it necessary to draw the sheriff’sattention to an obvious mistake or oversight begin by saying “With respect” or“With the greatest respect M’Lord”. The sheriff will not object to thisline of approach if the point you wish to make is a valid one.

Occasionally, you may receive criticism or adverse comment from the sheriff that you feelis unjustified. If this happens accept the sheriff’s remarks gracefully and continueto present the case by starting with the phrase “With the greatest respect”. Asheriff will respect anyone who politely stands his or her ground and succeeds in makingthe point.

Whatever the outcome of the hearing, once the sheriff has reached a decision, it iscustomary to say “Thank you, your Lordship/Ladyship” and on reaching the doorbefore leaving the court you should bow towards the sheriff.