|High Court of Justice|
|Established||1 November 1875|
|Jurisdiction||England and Wales|
|Location||Strand, City of Westminster, London|
The High Court of Justice in London, known properly as His Majesty's High Court of Justice in England,together with the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court, are the Senior Courts of England and Wales. Its name is abbreviated as EWHC (England and Wales High Court) for legal citation purposes.
The High Court deals at first instance with all high-value and high-importance civil law (non-criminal) cases; it also has a supervisory jurisdiction over all subordinate courts and tribunals, with a few statutory exceptions, though there are debates as to whether these exceptions are effective.
The High Court consists of three divisions: the King's Bench Division, the Chancery Division and the Family Division. Their jurisdictions overlap in some cases, and cases started in one division may be transferred by court order to another where appropriate. The differences of procedure and practice between divisions are partly historical, derived from the separate courts which were merged into the single High Court by the 19th-century Judicature Acts, but are mainly driven by the usual nature of their work, for example, conflicting evidence of fact is quite commonly given in person in the King's Bench Division, but evidence by affidavit is more usual in the Chancery Division which is primarily concerned with points of law.
Most High Court proceedings are heard by a single judge, but certain kinds of proceedings, especially in the King's Bench Division, are assigned to a divisional court—a bench of two or more judges. Exceptionally the court may sit with a jury, but in practice normally only in defamation cases or cases against the police. Litigants are normally represented by counsel but may be represented by solicitors qualified to hold a right of audience, or they may act in person.
In principle, the High Court is bound by its own previous decisions, but there are conflicting authorities as to what extent this is so. Appeal from the High Court in civil matters normally lies to the Court of Appeal, and thence in cases of importance to the Supreme Court (the House of Lords before 2009); in some cases a "leapfrog" appeal may be made directly to the Supreme Court. In criminal matters, appeals from the King's Bench Divisional Court are made directly to the Supreme Court.
The High Court is based at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in the City of Westminster, London. It has district registries across England and Wales; almost all High Court proceedings may be issued and heard at a district registry.
The High Court of Justice was established in 1875 by the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873. The Act merged eight existing English courts – the Court of Chancery, the Court of King's Bench, the Court of Common Pleas, the Court of Exchequer, the High Court of Admiralty, the Court of Probate, the Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, and the London Court of Bankruptcy – into a new Supreme Court of Judicature (now known as the Senior Courts of England and Wales). The new Supreme Court was divided into the Court of Appeal, which exercised appellate jurisdiction, and the High Court, which exercised original jurisdiction.
Originally, the High Court consisted of five divisions, the King's Bench, Common Pleas, Exchequer, Chancery, and Probate, Divorce and Admiralty divisions. In 1880, the Common Pleas and Exchequer divisions were abolished, leaving three divisions. The Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division was renamed to the Family Division by the Administration of Justice Act 1970, and its jurisdiction reorganised accordingly. The High Court is now organised into three divisions: the King's Bench Division, the Chancery Division, and the Family Division.A list of hearings in the High Court's divisions is published daily.
|This article is part of the series: Courts of England and Wales|
|Law of England and Wales|
The King's Bench Division –or Queen's Bench Division when the monarch is female –hears a wide range of common law cases and also has special responsibility as a supervisory court. It includes subdivisions such as the Administrative Court, the Commercial Court, the Technology and Construction Court, and the Admiralty Court.
Until 2005, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales was the head of the Division. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 created a President of the Queen's Bench Division.
The Chancery Division (housed in the Rolls Building) deals with business law, trusts law, probate law, insolvency, and land law in relation to issues of equity. It has specialist courts (the Patents Court and the Companies Court) which deal with patents and registered designs and company law matters respectively. All tax appeals are assigned to the Chancery Division.
Until 2005, the Lord Chancellor was the de jure head of the Chancery Division, but appointed a Vice-Chancellor who nominally acted his deputy. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 renamed the Vice-Chancellor to Chancellor of the High Court and made him the head of the Division.
Cases heard before the Chancery Division are reported in the Chancery Division law reports. In practice, there is some overlap of jurisdiction with the KBD.
From October 2015, the Chancery Division and the Commercial Court have maintained the Financial List for cases which would benefit from being heard by judges with suitable expertise and experience in the financial markets or which raise issues of general importance to the financial markets. The procedure was introduced to enable fast, efficient and high quality dispute resolution of claims related to the financial markets.
The formation within the High Court of the Business and Property Courts of England & Wales was announced in March 2017,and launched in London in July 2017. The courts would in future administer the specialist jurisdictions previously administered in the King's Bench Division under the names of the Admiralty Court, the Commercial Court, and the Technology and Construction Court, and in the Chancery Division under the lists for Business, Company and Insolvency, Competition, Financial, Intellectual Property, Revenue, and Trusts and Probate. The change was meant to enable judges who have suitable expertise and experience in the specialist business and property jurisdictions to be cross-deployed to sit in the specialist courts, while continuing existing practices for cases that proceed in them.
The Family Division deals with personal human matters such as divorce, children, probate and medical treatment. Its decisions are often of great importance only to the parties, but may concern life and death and are perhaps inevitably regarded as controversial. For example, it permitted a hospital to separate conjoined twins without the parents' consent.In 2002 it made a landmark judgement in the case of Ms B v An NHS Hospital Trust regarding the right of mentally competent patients to withdraw from life-saving treatment. The Family Division exercises jurisdiction to hear all cases relating to children's welfare, and has an exclusive jurisdiction in wardship cases. Its head is the President of the Family Division, currently Sir Andrew McFarlane. High Court Judges of the Family Division sit at the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, while District Judges of the Family Division sit at First Avenue House, Holborn, London.
The Family Division is comparatively modern. The Judicature Acts first combined the Court of Probate, the Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes and the High Court of Admiralty into the then Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court, or The Court of Wills, Wives and Wrecks, as it was informally called. That was renamed the Family Division in 1971 when the admiralty and contentious probate business were transferred elsewhere.
The Family Division has faced criticism by allowing allegedly abusive partners to cross-examine their former partners; a procedure already banned in criminal procedure. Peter Kyle, MP for Hove, claimed this amounted to "abuse and brutalisation", and called for the system to be changed.Liz Truss, when she was Lord Chancellor, announced plans to end this practice, and proposals were contained in Clause 47 of the Prisons and Courts Bill before Parliament was prorogued for the 2017 general election.
The High Court only operates within four traditional periods in the year, known as sittings:
The Justices of His Majesty's High Court of Justice are informally known as High Court judges, and in judicial matters are formally styled "The Honourable Mr(s) Justice (Forename) Surname", abbreviated in writing to "Surname J". In court, they are properly addressed as My Lord or My Lady. Since by convention they are knighted upon appointment, socially they are addressed as Sir Forename or Dame Forename. High Court judges are sometimes referred to as red judges after the colour of their formal robes, in contrast to the junior circuit judges who are referred to as purple judges for the same reason.
Masters (also judges in the High Court) are addressed as 'Master', regardless of gender, or 'Judge' and they wear dark blue gowns with pink tabs echoing the red of the High Court justices' robes. Within the Chancery Division of the High Court, there are also Insolvency and Companies Court Judges, who hear the majority of High Court insolvency (both personal and corporate) and company law cases and trials, together with some appeals from the County Court. They too wear dark blue gowns with pink tabs and are addressed as 'Judge' in court.
Justices of the High Court, Insolvency and Companies Court Judges and Masters are appointed by the King on the recommendation of Judicial Appointments Commission, from qualified lawyers. The Lord Chancellor, and all government ministers, are statutorily required to "uphold the continued independence of the judiciary",and both Houses of Parliament have standing orders to similar effect. High Court justices may be removed before their statutory retirement age only by a procedure requiring the approval of both Houses of Parliament.
In addition to full High Court justices, other qualified persons such as retired judges, circuit judges from the County Court, and barristers are appointed to sit as deputy judges of the High Court to hear particular cases, and while sitting are addressed as though they were full High Court judges. Trials in London are also conducted by Insolvency and Companies Court Judges and Masters, who have almost identical trial jurisdiction to full High Court judges but who do not hear committals to prison, criminal cases, or judicial review and do not travel 'on circuit' to outlying courts.
High Court justices (usually from the King's Bench Division) also sit in the Crown Court, which try the more significant criminal cases, but High Court Judges only hear the most serious and important cases, with circuit judges and recorders hearing the majority.
Historically the ultimate source of all justice in England was the monarch. All judges sit in judgment on the monarch's behalf (hence they have the royal coat of arms displayed behind them) and criminal prosecutions are generally made in the monarch's name. Historically, local magnates administered justice in manorial courts and other ways. Inevitably, the justice administered was patchy and appeals were made direct to the monarch. The monarch's travelling representatives (whose primary purpose was tax collection) acted on behalf of the monarch to make the administration of justice more even.
The tradition continues of judges travelling around the country in set 'circuits', where they hear cases in the 'district registries' of the High Court. The 'main' High Court (in the City of Westminster, London) is not itself a High Court district registry.
The High Court previously divided England and Wales into six circuits namely the Midlands, Northern England, North Eastern England, South Eastern England, Wales (including Cheshire), and Western England.Since 2005, the High Court has used seven circuits, listed below, which are identical to the Crown Court regions.
The Senior Courts Costs Office, which quantifies legal costs pursuant to orders for costs, serves all divisions. The Costs Office is part of the High Court,so generally all detailed assessment proceedings commenced in the Costs Office are subject to provisional assessment. Exceptions from provisional assessment are detailed assessment proceedings in which the costs claimed are large (greater than £75,000) or in which the potential paying party does not respond to the notice of assessment.
English law is the common law legal system of England and Wales, comprising mainly criminal law and civil law, each branch having its own courts and procedures.
The Court of Appeal is the highest court within the Senior Courts of England and Wales, and second in the legal system of England and Wales only to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The Court of Appeal was created in 1875, and today comprises 39 Lord Justices of Appeal and Lady Justices of Appeal.
The courts of England and Wales, supported administratively by His Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, are the civil and criminal courts responsible for the administration of justice in England and Wales.
In the history of the courts of England and Wales, the Judicature Acts were a series of Acts of Parliament, beginning in the 1870s, which aimed to fuse the hitherto split system of courts of England and Wales. The first two Acts were the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873 and the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1875, with a further series of amending acts.
The Exchequer of Pleas, or Court of Exchequer, was a court that dealt with matters of equity, a set of legal principles based on natural law and common law in England and Wales. Originally part of the curia regis, or King's Council, the Exchequer of Pleas split from the curia in the 1190s to sit as an independent central court. The Court of Chancery's reputation for tardiness and expense resulted in much of its business transferring to the Exchequer. The Exchequer and Chancery, with similar jurisdictions, drew closer together over the years until an argument was made during the 19th century that having two seemingly identical courts was unnecessary. As a result, the Exchequer lost its equity jurisdiction. With the Judicature Acts, the Exchequer was formally dissolved as a judicial body by an Order in Council on 16 December 1880.
The High Court of Ireland is a court which deals at first instance with the most serious and important civil and criminal cases. When sitting as a criminal court it is called the Central Criminal Court and sits with judge and jury. It also acts as a court of appeal for civil cases in the Circuit Court. It also has the power to determine whether or not a law is constitutional, and of judicial review over acts of the government and other public bodies.
The Supreme Court of New South Wales is the highest state court of the Australian State of New South Wales. It has unlimited jurisdiction within the state in civil matters, and hears the most serious criminal matters. Whilst the Supreme Court is the highest New South Wales court in the Australian court hierarchy, an appeal by special leave can be made to the High Court of Australia.
A prerogative court is a court through which the discretionary powers, privileges, and legal immunities reserved to the sovereign were exercised. In England in the 17th century, a clash developed between these courts, representing the crown's authority, and common law courts. Prerogative courts included the Court of the Exchequer, the Court of Chancery, and the Court of the Star Chamber. Their procedures were flexible and not limited by common law procedures. The Star Chamber became a tool of Charles I employed against his enemies, and was abolished by parliament. A parallel system of common law courts was grounded in Magna Carta and property rights; the main common law courts were the Court of the King's Bench and the Court of Common Pleas.
The courts of Northern Ireland are the civil and criminal courts responsible for the administration of justice in Northern Ireland: they are constituted and governed by the law of Northern Ireland.
The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales (ICLR) is a registered charity based in London, England, that publishes law reports of English law. The company is widely recognised as a reputable producer of reports, which are used by students, academics, journalists, lawyers and judges across the country.
The Northern Circuit is a circuit of the General Council of the Bar and English judiciary.
There are various levels of judiciary in England and Wales—different types of courts have different styles of judges. They also form a strict hierarchy of importance, in line with the order of the courts in which they sit, so that judges of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales are given more weight than district judges sitting in county courts and magistrates' courts. On 1 April 2020 there were 3,174 judges in post in England and Wales. Some judges with United Kingdom-wide jurisdiction also sit in England and Wales, particularly Justices of the United Kingdom Supreme Court and members of the tribunals judiciary.
The President of the Family Division is the head of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice in England and Wales and Head of Family Justice. The Family Division was created in 1971 when Admiralty and contentious probate cases were removed from its predecessor, the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division.
The High Court of Justice of the Isle of Man is governed by the High Court Act 1991. There are four permanent judges of the High Court:
The Court of King's Bench, formally known as The Court of the King Before the King Himself, was a court of common law in the English legal system. Created in the late 12th to early 13th century from the curia regis, the King's Bench initially followed the monarch on his travels. The King's Bench finally joined the Court of Common Pleas and Exchequer of Pleas in Westminster Hall in 1318, making its last travels in 1421. The King's Bench was merged into the High Court of Justice by the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873, after which point the King's Bench was a division within the High Court. The King's Bench was staffed by one Chief Justice and usually three Puisne Justices.
The Law Reports is the name of a series of law reports published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting.
The Judges' Council is a body in England and Wales that, representing the judiciary, advises the Lord Chief Justice on judicial matters. It has its historical roots in the original Council of the Judges of the Supreme Court, created by the Judicature Act 1873 to oversee the new Supreme Court of Judicature. This body initially met regularly, reforming the procedure used by the circuit courts, and the new High Court of Justice but met less regularly as time went on, meeting only twice between 1900 and 1907, with a gap of ten years between meetings in 1940 and 1950 respectively. After relative inactivity, it was eventually wound up through the Supreme Court Act 1981, which contained no provisions for its continued existence, something Denis Dobson attributes to newer bodies which performed the duties the Council had originally been created to do.
The High Court of Justice in Ireland was the court created by the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877 to replace the existing court structure in Ireland. Its creation mirrored the reform of the courts of England and Wales five years earlier under the Judicature Acts. The Act created a Supreme Court of Judicature, consisting of a High Court of Justice and a Court of Appeal.
Certain former courts of England and Wales have been abolished or merged into or with other courts, and certain other courts of England and Wales have fallen into disuse.
The King's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice deals with a wide range of common law cases and has supervisory responsibility over certain lower courts.