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Who are Deputy Sheriffs, Court Bailiffs and Messengers of Court?

Deputy Sheriffs, Court Bailiffs and Messengers of Court are Court officers appointed by the Registrar of the High Court in terms of the Law. Deputy Sheriffs are appointed for the High Court, and Court Bailiffs and Messengers of Court are appointed for the Magistrates Courts.

What are Their Duties?

The duties of Deputy Sheriffs, Court Bailiffs and Messengers of Court are to serve court processes. Such documents include Writs of Summons, Provisional Summons, Petitions, Applications and Writs of Arrest etc.  They are also responsible for attaching and selling movable and immovable properties of the judgment debtors through public auction sales and enforcing warrants of civil imprisonment.  They can also be instructed to serve court processes emanating from outside the Country.

Where do I Find Them?

Deputy Sheriffs are independent officers who function privately but account to the Sheriff for the proper discharge of their functions.  In the past they were attached to Law firms as inhouse Deputy Sheriffs but that practice is being faced out to promote their independence. They are also found in Government Offices like the Attorney General’s Chambers and BURS.  Deputy Sheriff’s powers are restricted to administrative districts which coincide with magisterial districts. In that case they are appointed for particular districts. The letter of appointment and identity card must indicate the district in which they are appointed to operate in.

How do I Recognize Them?

On appointment, a Deputy Sheriff is given an ID card containing his/her particulars and photo. He/she must display the ID when he/she visits you. All Court Bailiffs/Messengers of Court are Civil Servants operating at Magistrates Courts.

Are they allowed to prepare summonses for members of the public?

Deputy Sheriffs are messengers of Court. They are Court officers who must do work for the courts and the public. In doing so they must not operate like lawyers. It is not their duty to prepare summonses on behalf of members of the public.

Is a deputy sheriff allowed to represent a person in court?

A Deputy Sheriff cannot represent a person in Court as he is not a lawyer. Only lawyers are allowed by law to do that.

Are deputy sheriffs debt collectors as well?

Deputy Sheriffs are not appointed to operate debt collection companies. Although they collect debts on behalf of judgment creditors they are not debt collectors in the sense of running debt collection business. They are officers of the Court who will only collect debts pursuant to a judgment of Court.

Presently there is no law regulating the appointment of Debt Collectors. Debt Collectors derive their authority from the general functions of their companies. To note is that the office of the Registrar does not appoint debt collectors. lt is also not responsible for their work.

How do a deputy sheriff/court bailiff and messenger of court recover money owed?

A Deputy Sheriff is given instruction by the party who won the case (Plaintiff) to go and attach the property of the party who lost the case (Defendant). He/she must also hand him a document called a writ of execution. The writ contains the names of the defendant and his addresses. The Deputy Sheriff will then go to the Defendant's house and demand that he pays the money owing.

If he fails to pay, attach his movable property like, furniture, TV, motor vehicles etc. He must not attach beds that he uses or are used by his children, food, clothes, tools of trade of a certain value etc. lf there is no property available he must search for it.

After attachment the Deputy Sheriff will either remove the property and store it in a safe and secure place or leave them with judgment debtor: if he gives him assurance together with someone reputable that he will produce the property on the day of sale.He must then advertise the property for sale within 14 days.

The sale must be by public auction. The price obtained depends on people who are there to bid. It can be high or low. If the sale does not raise enough money to pay off the debts, further attachment of movable property of the defendant can be made. Immovable property is only attached if all movables have been attached and sold or there are no movables or where the court has ordered that it be attached. The proceeds of sale are distributed to all creditors who brought their claims to the Deputy Sheriff before the sale. The property attached must belong to the judgment debtor.

Deputy Sheriffs Charges

Deputy Sheriff’s charges are regulated by the Rules of the High Court. In some cases where there is a dispute such charges can be taxed or revised by the Master. This means that a Deputy Sheriff will prepare a bill of costs for taxation by the Sheriff/the Registrar.

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