Covid-19 Guidance for members
Update - 21 January 2021
The Society of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers has issued this updated set of guidelines.
The following guidance is given to assist officers of court in striking a balance, to maintain public safety during the pandemic, and to continue to provide lawful services to the public, so that court documents are served on time, and civil decrees, decisions or orders are given effect. This guidance does not list all possible types of instructions an officer of court may be requested to undertake; nor is it intended to prevent lawful instructions under a warrant, decree, decision or order of a court or tribunal from being executed.
Covid-19 Guidance for members Revised 21ST January 2021
As members will be aware, the Scottish Government introduced Scotland’s Strategic Framework, which replaced the previous phases in Scotland’s Route map with a tier system. As with our previous guidance, our approach is to mirror the steps taken by the Scottish Government and in particular, the steps outlined for Community and Public services, of which officers of court form a part.
This guidance sets out an approach for each of the tiers of protection levels - with the caveat, mentioned in our previous guidance, that all members assess carefully what is reasonably practicable in respect of instructions, taking into consideration the most up to date official Government advice.
Members should, for their own protection, their colleagues’, employees’ and members of the general public, continue to follow all general government guidance around working safely. The tiered approach introduced protection levels for each Local Authority area. As many of our members will carry out instructions in a number of Local Authority areas, it is important that members check which tier is applicable to the area in which they are working. Local Protection Levels
In respect of the Protection Levels, we suggest the following approach:
Protection Level O This is the lowest level, in which officers of court should be carrying out their official functions without restriction, whilst continuing to pay close attention to general public health guidance.
Protection Levels 1 and 2
Whilst paying close attention to general public health guidance and any legislative prohibitions, we would suggest that instructions such as those below, should be able to be undertaken where practical and safe to do so. Service: Initial Writs, Summonses, Simple Procedure Claims, Summary Applications, Petitions, Interdicts, ASBOs, Statutory Demands, Demand Letters and other Notices that require to be served under statute. Enforcement: Charges for Payment, Arrestments, Inhibitions, Earnings Arrestments, Attachments, Money Attachments, Ejections and Exceptional Attachment Orders.
Protection Level 3
The designation Level 3 indicates an area in which there is a high prevalence of the virus. In these areas we recommend that you do not carry out Exceptional Attachments at domestic premises, nor other diligence prohibited by statute.
Protection Level 4 This is the highest level, and in addition to the recommended restriction in Level 3, we also recommend that you do not execute Attachments, except at commercial premises that remain open or in respect of vehicles, plant and machinery located in the open.
Escalation above Protection Level 4 We recommend that in areas where the Protection Level is escalated above Protection Level 4, in addition to the preceding guidance, members follow current Government direction for their own safety and that of others. People should work from home unless the work in question cannot be done from home. Where members require to meet with the public in the course of executing their duties, we recommend members limit face to face contact as much as possible.
Ejections Our previous guidance has been superseded by legislation, prohibiting at a dwelling house, in Protection Levels 3 and 4 areas, the serving of a charge for removal, or the execution of a decree for removing from heritable property, except in specific instances.
There will also be cases where an ejection is instructed in a lower tier protection level area, however, the occupants either have the virus or are self-isolating. An officer of court should take all reasonably practicable steps safely to verify such claims and, if they are verified, we recommend that the ejection should be re-arranged for a later date. It will be important to exercise professional judgment and liaise closely with parties.
Members should note the terms of the following relevant legislation:
Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020
Coronavirus (Scotland)(No.2) Act 2020
The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, as amended.
Stopping the spread starts with all of us.
This guidance is given to all members of the Society of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers, and therefore is relevant to all officers of court in Scotland. The Society has no powers to compel adherence to the guidance and relies on members to use their professional judgement. It is recognised that the execution of diligence or other court orders may involve some situations which go beyond the scope of this guidance. It is the Society’s policy to review its guidance regularly and to make it public on this website.
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