Court of King's Bench (Ireland)

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The Court of King's Bench (of Queen's Bench when the sovereign was female, and formerly of Chief Place [1] or Chief Pleas [2] ) was one of the senior courts of common law in Ireland. It was a mirror of the Court of King's Bench in England. The King's Bench was one of the "Four Courts" which sat in the building in Dublin which is still known as "The Four Courts", and is still in use.


The Four Courts, present day Fourcourtsquays.JPG
The Four Courts, present day


According to Elrington Ball, [3] the Court called the King's Bench can be identified as early as 1290. It was fully operational by 1324, headed by the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, who was assisted by at least one, and often more associate justices, although for brief periods the Chief Justice was forced to sit alone, due to the lack of a suitably qualified colleague. A Statute of 1410 provided that a trial in King's Bench set down for a specific county must proceed there, and must not be moved to another venue without good reason. [4] By 1612 the workload, even with a full bench of four judges, was so heavy and the backlog of cases so large, that Sir William Sparke was appointed an extra justice of the Court (he later became fourth Justice). [3]


The King's Bench was the principal court of criminal jurisdiction and civil jurisdiction, and its Chief Justice was the most senior judge in Ireland after the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Its workload was more onerous than that of the Court of Exchequer and the Court of Common Pleas, and there was a tradition that its judges must be of a higher calibre than those of the other common law courts. [3] In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Crown expressed a strong preference for appointing English-born judges to the King's Bench, and especially to the office of Lord Chief Justice. [3] From the beginning of the eighteenth century however no objection was made to the appointment of Irish-born judges.


The Court of Queen's Bench was abolished in 1878 by the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877. The Court's jurisdiction passed to a new High Court of Justice. The High Court was itself abolished by Section 40 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920. That section created a High Court in Northern Ireland, which still contains a Queen's Bench Division, with similar jurisdiction to its counterpart in England and Wales. In the Republic of Ireland the jurisdiction passed to the new High Court of Ireland.

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  1. Murray, Robert H. (Robert Henry) (1919). A short guide to the principal classes of documents preserved in the Public record office, Dublin. Helps for Students of History. Vol. 7. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. p. 41.; Morrin, James, ed. (1863). "5 Charles I [1629] membrane 32". Calendar of the patent and close rolls of chancery in Ireland. Vol. 1 to 8 Charles I. Dublin: HMSO. p. 450. Retrieved 23 March 2021. commonly called the Court of Chief Place or King's Bench; Hamilton, Hans Claude; Atkinson, Ernest G.; Mahaffy, Robert Pentland, eds. (1910). "21 October 1669". Calendar of the State Papers Relating to Ireland; Preserved in the Public Record Office. Vol. September 1669–December 1670, with Addenda, 1625–70. London: HMSO. p. 328. ISBN   978-1-55429-618-7. James, Lord Santry, Chief Justice of our Court of Chief Place [King's Bench]
  2. "Examination of Elizabeth Moore". 1641 Depositions. Trinity College Dublin. 19 November 1641. Archived from the original on 25 September 2021. Retrieved 23 March 2021. Sir Gerrard Lowther Knight Lord Chief Justice of his Maiesties Court of Chief Pleas
  3. 1 2 3 4 Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926
  4. 11 Henry IV c.20