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Scots law
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Law of Scotland

A District Court is the least authoritative type of criminal court in Scotland. The court operates under summary procedure and deals primarily with minor criminal offences.



District courts were introduced in 1975 and sit in each local authority area under summary procedure only. introduced in 1975 as replacement for Burgh Police Courts. The courts are each run by the local authority within whose jurisdiction it operates. Each court comprises one or more Justices of the Peace—lay magistrates—who sit singly or in threes; a qualified legal assessor acts as convener or clerk of court.


They handle many cases of breach of the peace, drunkenness, minor assaults, petty theft, and offences under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.

District Court operate under summary procedure and may not impose a fine in excess of £2,500 or sentence an offender to more than 60 days in prison. In practice, most offences are dealt with by a fine.


In Glasgow where the volume of business requires the employment of four solicitors as "stipendiary magistrates" who sit in place of the lay Justices. The Stipendiary Magistrates' court has the same sentencing power as the summary Sheriff Court.[1]


The Scottish Government had announced its intention to unify the management of the Sheriff and District courts in Scotland, but retaining lay Justices. The Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007 enables the Scottish Ministers to replace District Courts by "Justice of the Peace Courts".[2]

The new Justice of the Peace Courts are managed by the Scottish Court Service. Responsibility for the Courts is being transferred from the local authorities in a rolling programme of court unification, planned to conclude in February 2010.

To date, District Courts have been replaced by JP Courts in sheriffdoms as follows-

  • Lothian and Borders, 10 March 2008 [3]
  • Grampian, Highlands and Islands, 2 June 2008 [4]
  • Glasgow and Strathkelvin, 8 December 2008 [5]
  • Tayside, Central and Fife, 23 February 2009 [6]
  • North Strathclyde, 14 December 2009
  • South Strathclyde, Dumfries & Galloway - planned for February 2010


  1. ^ The role, function and operation of District Courts within the court hierarchy in Scotland: "About District Courts". City of Glasgow Council. Retrieved 2007-12-10.  
  2. ^ "The Scottish Ministers may by order establish courts of summary criminal jurisdiction to be known as justice of the peace courts." "Section 59 of the Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007 (asp 6)". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 2007-11-27.  
  3. ^ Circular JD/1/2008
  4. ^ Circular JD/5/2008
  5. ^ Circular JD/9/2008
  6. ^ Circular JD/2/2009


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