Her Majesty's Courts of Justice of England and Wales are the civil and criminal courts responsible for the administration of justice in England and Wales; they apply the law of England and Wales and are established under Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom does not have a single unified judicial system—England and Wales have one system, Scotland another, and Northern Ireland a third.
There are exceptions to this rule; for example in immigration law, the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal's jurisdiction covers the whole of the United Kingdom, while in employment law there is a single system of Employment Tribunals for England, Wales, and Scotland (but not Northern Ireland). The Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Crown Court, the Magistrates' Courts, and the County Courts are administered by Her Majesty's Courts Service, an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. Appellate Committee of the House of Lords The House of Lords is the highest appeal court in almost all cases in England and Wales.
The judicial functions of the House of Lords are entirely separate from its legislative role with only the Law Lords hearing the appeals from the Court of Appeal and the High Court. Its decisions are binding on all lower courts. Its judicial functions were abolished by the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873, but an election was held before the act came into force, and the new Parliament passed the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1875 which amended the first Act to preserve the House of Lords' judicial function. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 will transfer these functions to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
The House is also the court of trial in impeachment cases, although impeachment in England is now obsolete. Judicial Committee of the Privy Council The Privy Council is the highest court of appeal for the UK in a handful of areas of law, notably devolution matters. In addition, it is the highest court of appeal for a dwindling number of Commonwealth countries and the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The judges who sit on the Privy Council are for the most part also members of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords.
The Supreme Court of England and Wales The Supreme Court was created by the Judicature Acts as "Supreme Court of Judicature". It was renamed the Supreme Court of England and Wales in 1981. It is the most important superior court of England and Wales. It consists of the following courts: • Court of Appeal • High Court of Justice • Crown Court When all the provisions of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 come into force the courts comprised in the present Supreme Court of England and Wales will become known as the Senior Courts of England and Wales.
This change is being made consequent to the establishment of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom by that Act. Court of Appeal The Court of Appeal deals only with appeals from other courts. The Court of Appeal consists of two divisions: the Civil Division hears appeals from the High Court and County Court and certain superior tribunals, while the Criminal Division may only hear appeals from the Crown Court connected with a trial on indictment (i. e. trial by judge and jury (the jury is only present if the defendant pleads "not guilty")). Its decisions are binding on all courts apart from the House of Lords.
High Court The High Court of Justice functions both as a civil court of first instance and a criminal appellate court for cases from the subordinate courts. It consists of three divisions: the Queen's Bench, the Chancery and the Family divisions. The divisions of the High Court are not separate courts. Although particular kinds of cases will be assigned to each division depending on their subject matter, each division may exercise the jurisdiction of the High Court. However, beginning proceedings in the wrong division may result in a costs penalty. Crown Court.
The Crown Court is a criminal court of both original and appellate jurisdiction which in addition handles a limited amount of civil business both at first instance and on appeal. It was established by the Courts Act of 1971. It replaced the Assizes whereby High Court judges would periodically travel around the country hearing cases, and Quarter Sessions which were periodic county courts. The Old Bailey is the unofficial name of London's most famous Criminal Court, which is now part of the Crown Court. Its official name is the "Central Criminal Court".
The Crown Court also hears appeals from Magistrates' Courts. The Crown Court is the only court in England and Wales that has the jurisdiction to try cases on indictment and when exercising such a role it is a superior court in that its judgments cannot be reviewed by the Administrative Court of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court. The Crown Court is an inferior court in respect of the other work it undertakes, viz. inter alia, appeals from the Magistrates’ court and other tribunals. Subordinate courts The most common subordinate courts in England and Wales are the • Magistrates' Courts.
• Family Proceedings Courts • Youth courts • County Courts Magistrates', Family Proceedings and Youth Courts Magistrates' Courts are presided over by a bench of lay magistrates (or justices of the peace), or a legally-trained district judge (formerly known as a stipendiary magistrate), sitting in each local justice area. There are no juries. They hear minor criminal cases, as well as certain licensing applications. Youth courts are run on similar lines to Adult magistrates' courts but deal with offenders aged between the ages of 10 and 17 inclusive.
Youth courts are presided over by a specially trained subset of experienced Adult Magistrates or a District Judge. Youth Magistrates have a wider catalogue of disposals available to them for dealing with young offenders and often hear more serious cases against youths (which for adults would normally be dealt with by the Crown Court). In addition some Magistrates' Courts are also a Family Proceedings Court and hear Family law cases including care cases and they have the power to make adoption orders. Family Proceedings Courts are not open to the public.
The Family Proceedings Court Rules 1991 apply to cases in the Family Proceedings Court. Youth courts are not open to the public for observation, only the parties involved in a case being admitted. County Courts County Courts are statutory courts with a purely civil jurisdiction. They are presided over by either a District or Circuit Judge and, except in a small minority of cases such as civil actions against the Police, the judge sits alone as trier of fact and law without assistance from a jury. County courts have divorce jurisdiction and undertake private family cases, care proceedings and adoptions.
County Courts are local courts in the sense that each one has an area over which certain kinds of jurisdiction — such as actions concerning land or cases concerning children who reside in the area — are exercised. For example, proceedings for possession of land must be started in the county court in whose district the property lies. However, in general any county court in England and Wales may hear any action and claims are frequently transferred from court to court. Tribunals The Court Service administers the tribunals that fall under the direct responsibility of the Lord Chancellor.
Tribunals can be considered the lowest rung of the court hierarchy in England and Wales. Special courts and tribunals In addition, there are many other specialist courts. These are often described as "Tribunals" rather than courts, but the difference in name is not of any great consequence. For example an Employment Tribunal is an inferior court of record for the purposes of the law of contempt of court. In many cases there is a statutory right of appeal from a tribunal to a particular court or specially constituted appellate tribunal.
In the absence of a specific appeals court, the only remedy from a decision of a Tribunal may be a judicial review to the High Court, which will often be more limited in scope than an appeal. Examples of specialist courts are: • Employment Tribunals (formerly Industrial Tribunals) with appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal • the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which is a superior court of record, and therefore not subject to judicial review, appeals go to the Court of Appeal • Leasehold Valuation Tribunals, with appeal to the Lands Tribunal • the Lands Tribunal.
• VAT and Duties Tribunals (who deal with indirect tax cases) • the General Commissioners and Special Commissioners (who deal with direct tax cases) • Rent assessment committees Coroners' courts The post of coroner is ancient, dating from the 11th Century, and coroners still sit today to determine the cause of death in situations where people have died in potentially suspicious circumstances, abroad, or in the care of central authority.
Ecclesiastical courts The Church of England is an established church (i. e..it is the official state church) and formerly had exclusive or non-exclusive subject matter jurisdiction over marriage and divorce cases, testamentary matters, defamation, and several other areas. Since the nineteenth century, the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts has narrowed principally to matters of church property and errant clergy. Each Diocese has a 'Chancellor' (either a barrister or solicitor) who acts as a judge in the consistory court of the diocese. The Bishop no longer has the right to preside personally, as he formerly did.
 Appeals lie to the Arches Court (in Canterbury) and the Chancery Court (in York), and from them to the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved (CECR). From the CECR appeals lie to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Other courts • Court-martial (military) • Admiralty court (maritime) • Court of Chivalry (heraldry) • Barmote Court (Derbyshire lead-mining court) • Patents County Court (Intellectual property cases) • Restrictive Practices Court [pic] [pic].