Bailiffs in Europe

Definition of Water-bailiff

Formerly an officer in a seaport town who searched ships; now an official who enforces the Salmon Fishery Acts, etc. [1]

Bailiff in Sweden

The enforcement officials form part of the civil service in Sweden. The senior officers are called Kronofgade and other work below them.

Bailiff in Spain

There is no independent profession for the enforcement of judgments in Spain. The secretario judicial is an officer of the Court and acts for the judiciary in the enforcement of judgments. They must have a law degree and are appointed by competitive examination.

The Agentes judiciales are junior court officials who are involved in the seizure of property. They do not need any legal training, but must have finished their secondary schooling.

Bailiff in Italy

In Italy there is no independent profession of bailiff, though there is talk of introducing one. A system akin to that in Portugal and Spain is used, whereby court officials are responsible for enforcement.

Bailiff in Ireland


In Ireland there are a total of 16 sheriffs. 4 ‘revenue’ sheriffs and 12 ‘full’ sheriffs. The sheriffs are allocated a county for which they are responsible. Some may cover more than if they are relatively small and others will cover only half a county if it is particularly large.


Persons eligible for appointment as sheriffs are usually solicitors of 10 years standing or more. A few barristers may be eligible but it is unusual as the work is seen as being peculiar to solicitors. There is no post appointment training required.

However, the nature of the work does require that an appointee be familiar with the local area he will be working in, be politically aware but independent from political pressures and possess considerable administrative skills.


The position of sheriff is a Government appointment based on a similar system to the appointment of judges.

The person appointment is required to have knowledge and awareness of the local area he will be performing his duties in. They must also demonstrate political independence due to some of the politically sensitive work they must carry out.

The standard retirement age is 70, unless a person was to become physically or mentally incapacitated before that date. A sheriff can also be removed from the position if they are found to have acted in a way not in accordance with the responsibilities of the position.


They are:

  • Revenue sheriffs are confined to revenue work, which involves collection of monies owed on the basis of issued court orders. Full sheriffs also do revenue work that includes civil work in the collection of debts for banks and other undertakings.
  • They also have the power to seize specific items as requested by repossession orders and they carry out evictions from property.
  • Their most important work though is running elections. They manage the European, Government, Local and By elections. They are in charge of organisation of the event and act as the returning officer.

Author: J Lonbay (A), 2008

Bailiff in Greece

The Dikastikos Epimelitis (Court Bailiff) is an independent practitioners who:

  • effect formal service of legal and other documents; and
  • attach assets and enforce judgments and orders of the Court always on written instructions, mostly from lawyers.

Bailiff in Finland

There are about 90 judicial officers and about 700 assistant enforcement officers working within 70 enforcement districts in Finland. They carry out enforcement duties for the courts, such as compulsory auctions of real estate. They are all civil servants working for the Ministry of Justice, courts and prosecutors, and do not form an independent profession.

In Finland the judicial officers must be lawyers (asianajajat / advokater) first.

Other Legal Professionals


Information about lawyers in the European countries is provided here.


Information about Notaries in the European countries is provided here.

Bailiffs in some other European Countries

Lawyers in some European Countries



1. Definition of Water-bailiff is, temporally, from A Concise Law Dictionary (1927).

See Also

Further Reading

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