The High Court of Justice in England is, together with the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court, one of the Senior Courts of England and Wales. Its name is abbreviated as EWHC for legal citation purposes.
The High Court deals at first instance with all high value and high importance cases, and also has a supervisory jurisdiction over all subordinate courts and tribunals, with a few statutory exceptions.
The High Court consists of three divisions: the Queen'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 Queen'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 Queen'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 Queen'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 and almost all High Court proceedings may be issued and heard at a district registry.
|High Court of Justice|
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom
|Established||1 November 1875|
|Country||England and Wales|
|Location||Strand, City of Westminster, London|
|Decisions are appealed to||Court of Appeal|
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 Queen'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 organised into three divisions: the Queen's Bench Division, the Chancery Division, and the Family Division. A list of hearings in the High Court's divisions is published daily.
The Queen's Bench Division – or King's Bench Division when the monarch is male – has two roles. It hears a wide range of common law cases and also has special responsibility as a supervisory court. Until 2005, the head of the QBD was the Lord Chief Justice. The post of President of the Queen's Bench Division was created by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, leaving the Lord Chief Justice as President of the Courts of England and Wales, Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales and Head of Criminal Justice. Sir Igor Judge was the first person to hold this office, appointed in October 2005.
The Queen's Bench Division has supervisory jurisdiction over inferior courts, and its Administrative Court is generally the appropriate legal forum where the validity (but, at least in principle, not the merits) of official decisions may be challenged. Generally, unless specific appeal processes are provided, the validity of any decision of a government minister, inferior court, tribunal, local authority or official body may be challenged by someone with sufficient interest by judicial review in the Administrative Court of the Queen's Bench Division. A single judge first decides whether the matter is fit to bring to the court (to filter out frivolous or unarguable cases) and if so the matter is allowed to go forward to a full judicial review hearing with one or more judges.
In addition, the Queen's Bench Divisional Court hears appeals on points of law from the Magistrates' Court and from the Crown Court. These are known as appeals by way of case stated, since the questions of law are considered solely on the basis of the facts found and stated by the authority under review.
Other specialised courts of the Queen's Bench Division include the Technology and Construction Court, Commercial Court, and the Admiralty Court. The specialised judges and procedures of these courts are tailored to their type of business, but they are not essentially different from any other court of the QBD.
Appeals from the High Court in civil matters are made to the Court of Appeal (Civil Division); in criminal matters appeal from the Divisional Court is made only to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
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. The head of the Chancery Division was known as the Vice-Chancellor until October 2005, when the title was changed by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 to Chancellor of the High Court. The first Chancellor (and the last Vice-Chancellor) was Sir Andrew Morritt, who retired in 2013 to be succeeded by Sir Terence Etherton. In 2016, Sir Geoffrey Vos succeeded Sir Terence as Chancellor on the latter's appointment as Master of the Rolls. Cases heard before the Chancery Division are reported in the Chancery Division law reports. In practice, there is some overlap of jurisdiction with the QBD.
From October 2015, the Chancery Division and the Commercial Court (England and Wales) 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 Queen'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; and allowed one woman to have her life support machines turned off, while not permitting a husband to give his severely disabled wife a lethal injection with her consent. 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 & 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 Her 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. Since by convention they are knighted upon appointment, socially they are addressed as Sir Forename or Dame Forename, without the prefix, The Hon., which is given only to their office. 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 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, 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 Queen 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 courts, 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. Many trials in London are conducted by Masters, who have almost identical trial jurisdiction as 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 Queen'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 judgement 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 King. The King's travelling representatives (whose primary purpose was tax collection) acted on behalf of the king 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 Senior Courts Costs Office, which quantifies legal costs pursuant to orders for costs, serves all divisions. Such Costs Office is part of the High Court. Because the Costs Office is part of the High Court, 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.
Between 1978 and 2006 there were a number of legal disputes between Apple Corps (owned by The Beatles) and the computer manufacturer Apple Computers (now Apple Inc.) over competing trademark rights. The High Court of Justice in England handed down a judgment on 8 May 2006 in favour of Apple Computer, but the companies did not announce a final settlement until 5 February 2007.Baron Wrenbury
Baron Wrenbury, of Old Castle, Dallington in the County of Sussex, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1915 for the barrister and judge Sir Henry Buckley. He served as a Judge of the High Court of Justice and as a Lord Justice of Appeal. As of 2014 the title is held by his great-grandson, the fourth Baron, who succeeded his father in 2014. The Hon. Sir Denys Buckley, younger son of the first Baron, was also a Judge of the High Court of Justice and Lord Justice of Appeal.Chancellor of the High Court
The Chancellor of the High Court is the head of the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales. This judge and the other two heads of divisions (Family and Queens Bench) sit by virtue of their offices often, as and when their expertise is deemed relevant, in panel in the Court of Appeal. As such this judge ranks equally to the President of the Family Division and the President of the Queen's Bench Division..
From 1813 to 1841, the solitary and from 1841 to 1875, the three ordinary judges of the Court of Chancery — rarely a court of first instance until 1855 — were called Vice-Chancellors. The more senior judges of the same court were the Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Rolls (who were moved fully to the Court of Appeal above in 1881). Each would occasionally hear cases alone or make declarations on paper applications alone. Partly due to the old system of many pre-pleadings, pleadings and hearings before most cases would reach Chancery the expense and duration of proceedings was pilloried in art and literature before the reforms of the late 19th century. Charles Dickens set Bleak House around raised hopes in (Jarndyce and Jarndyce) a near-incomprehensible, decades-long case in Chancery, involving a decision on an increasingly old Will which was rendered useless as all of the deceased's wealth was unknowingly to the central character prospective beneficiaries absorbed in legal costs. Reform swiftly followed.
Certain 1870s to 1899 Acts (the Judicature Acts) merged the courts of law and those of equity and enacted a halt to in the position of Vice-Chancellor — which lasted from 1875 until 1971.
From 1971 until October 2005, the revived high judicial office was called the Vice-Chancellorship (and the judge bore the title Vice-Chancellor). The holder nominally acted as the Lord Chancellor's deputy in the English legal system and as head of the Chancery Division. The key duties of this judge have not changed in substance since 1971.Chief Judge of Rivers State
The Chief Judge of Rivers State, also known as the Chief Judge of the High Court of Justice, is the title and office of the head of the judicial branch of Rivers State. The Chief Judge presides over the state's High Court, and is usually the most senior judge of that court.As of 2016, Adama Lamikanra is currently the acting Chief Judge of Rivers State. She is preceded by Daisy W. Okocha, the first woman to ever serve in that office.Court of Appeal judge (England and Wales)
A Lord Justice of Appeal or Lady Justice of Appeal is an ordinary judge of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, the court that hears appeals from the High Court of Justice and the Crown Court, and represents the second highest level of judge in the courts of England and Wales. Despite the title, and unlike the former Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, they are not necessarily peers.Court of Cassation (France)
The Court of Cassation (French: Cour de cassation; French pronunciation: [kuʁ.də.kɑ.saˈsjɔ̃]) is one of the four courts of last resort in France. It has jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters triable in the judicial system, and is the supreme court of appeal in these cases. It has jurisdiction to review the law, and to certify questions of law, to determine miscarriages of justice. The Court is located in the Palace of Justice in Paris.
The Court does not have juisdiction over cases involving claims against administrators or public bodies, which fall within the jurisdiction of administrative courts, for which the Council of State acts as the supreme court of appeal; nor over cases involving constitutional issues, which fall within the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Council; nor over cases involving disputes about which of these courts has jusridiction, which are heard by the Jurisdictional Disputes Tribunal. Collectively, these four courts form the topmost tier of the French court system.
The Court was established in 1790 under the name Tribunal de cassation during the French Revolution, and its original purpose was to act as a court of error with revisory jurisdiction over lower provincial prerogative courts (Parlements). However, much about the Court continues the earlier Paris Parlement.
The Court is the seat of the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the European Union.Courts of Northern Ireland
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 Northern Ireland law.
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 that rule, for example in immigration law, the jurisdiction of the First Tier Tribunal (Immigration & Asylum Chamber) and the Upper Tribunal covers the whole of the United Kingdom, and in employment law, there is a single system of Employment Tribunals for England and Wales and Scotland (but not Northern Ireland). Additionally, the Military Court Service has jurisdiction over all members of the armed forces of the United Kingdom in relation to offences against military law.
To overcome problems resulting from the intimidation of jurors and witnesses, the right to a jury trial in Northern Ireland was suspended for certain terrorist offences in 1972, and the so-called "Diplock courts" were introduced to try people charged with paramilitary activities. Diplock courts are common in Northern Ireland for crimes connected to terrorism.Administration of the courts is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service.Divisional court (England and Wales)
A divisional court, in relation to the High Court of Justice of England and Wales, means a court sitting with at least two judges. Matters heard by a divisional court include some criminal cases in the High Court (including appeals from magistrates' courts and in extradition proceedings) as well as certain judicial review cases. Although often referred to in practice as the Divisional Court, a divisional court is in fact not a separate court or division of the High Court but essentially refers to the number of judges sitting. Usually a divisional court sits with two judges but occasionally the bench comprises three judges (as it did in the recent appeal concerning disclosure of MPs' expenses, where the court comprised the President of the Queen's Bench Division, a Lord Justice of Appeal and a High Court Judge).
The best known divisional court is that of the Administrative Court, which is a specialist court in the Queen's Bench Division which deals with criminal and judicial review cases. There are also divisional courts of the Family and Chancery Divisions to deal with certain cases.
The usual constitution of a divisional court is one Lord Justice of Appeal and one High Court judge, in comparison to other sittings of the High Court which are usually before a single High Court judge.Expulsion of the Chagossians
The depopulation of Chagossians from the Chagos Archipelago was the forced expulsion of the inhabitants of the island of Diego Garcia and the other islands of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) by the United Kingdom, at the request of the United States, beginning in 1968 and concluding on 27 April 1973 with the evacuation of Peros Banhos atoll. The people, known at the time as the Ilois, are today known as Chagos Islanders or Chagossians.Some Chagossians and human rights advocates have said that the Chagossian right of occupation was violated by the British Foreign Office as a result of the 1966 agreement between the British and American governments to provide an unpopulated island for a U.S. military base, and that additional compensation and a right of return be provided.
Legal action to claim compensation and the right of abode in the Chagos began in April 1973 when 280 islanders, represented by a Mauritian attorney, petitioned the government of Mauritius to distribute the £650,000 compensation provided in 1972 by the British government to the Mauritian government for distribution. It was not distributed until 1977. Various petitions and lawsuits have been ongoing since that time. The British government has consistently denied any illegalities in the expulsion.High Court (Ireland)
The High Court (Irish: An Ard-Chúirt) 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.High Court judge (England and Wales)
A Justice of the High Court, commonly known as a ‘High Court judge’, is a judge of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales, and represents the third highest level of judge in the courts of England and Wales. High Court judges are referred to as puisne (pronounced puny) judges. High Court Judges wear red and black robes.High Court of Justice for the trial of King Charles I
For the modern court, see High Court of Justice.
The High Court of Justice was the court established by the Rump Parliament to try King Charles I of England. This was an ad hoc tribunal created specifically for the purpose of trying the king, although the name was used for subsequent courts.High Court of Justice in Ireland
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. It 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.High Court of Justice of Suriname
The High Court of Justice of Suriname (Dutch: Hof van Justitie van Suriname) is the highest court of law in Suriname and is the head of the judicial branch.Whilst the High Court of Justice is the highest court of appeal, cases beyond the court can be referred on to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Cynthia Valstein-Montnor has been acting president of the High Court of Justice since January 1, 2011.Judiciary of Niger
The current judiciary of Niger was established with the creation of the Fourth Republic in 1999. The constitution of December 1992 was revised by national referendum on 12 May 1996 and, again, by referendum, revised to the current version on 18 July 1999. It is an inquisitorial system based on the Napoleonic Code, established in Niger during French colonial rule and the 1960 constitution of Niger. The Court of Appeals reviews questions of fact and law, while the Supreme Court reviews application of the law and constitutional questions. The High Court of Justice (HCJ) deals with cases involving senior government officials. The justice system also includes civil criminal courts, customary courts, traditional mediation, and a military court. The military court provides the same rights as civil criminal courts; however, customary courts do not. The military court cannot try civilians.President of the Family Division
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 current President of the Family Division is Sir Andrew McFarlane (judge). Sir James Munby retired as president on 27th July 2018.Queen's Bench
The Queen's Bench (French: Cour du banc de la Reine; or, during the reign of a male monarch, the King's Bench, Cour du banc du Roi) is the superior court in a number of jurisdictions within some of the Commonwealth realms. The original King's Bench, founded in 1215 in England, was one of the ancient courts of the land and is now a division of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales.Rivers State High Court of Justice
The High Court of Justice, Rivers State's highest court, is composed of the Chief Judge of Rivers State and such number of judges appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council and subject to confirmation by the Rivers State House of Assembly.
The High Court of Justice has unlimited original jurisdiction with regard to civil and criminal legal cases. Furthermore, the High Court of Justice exercises appellate jurisdiction over lower courts within the state. At present, there are court branches at Isiokpo, Omoku, Port Harcourt, Degema and Ahoada.Supreme Court of Israel
The Supreme Court (Hebrew: בית המשפט העליון, Beit HaMishpat HaElyon) is the highest court in Israel. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all other courts, and in some cases original jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court consists of 15 Judges, who are appointed by the President of Israel, upon nomination by the Judicial Selection Committee. Once appointed, Judges serve until retirement at the age of 70, unless they resign or are removed from office. The current President of the Supreme Court (equivalent to Chief Justice) is Esther Hayut. The Court is situated in Jerusalem's Givat Ram governmental campus, about half a kilometer from Israel's legislature, the Knesset.
When ruling as the High Court of Justice (Hebrew: בית משפט גבוה לצדק, Beit Mishpat Gavo'ah LeTzedek; also known as its acronym Bagatz, בג"ץ), the court rules on the legality of decisions of State authorities: government decisions, those of local authorities and other bodies and persons performing public functions under the law, and direct challenges to the constitutionality of laws enacted by the Knesset. The court may review actions by state authorities outside of Israel.
By the principle of binding precedent (stare decisis), Supreme Court rulings are binding upon every other court, except itself. Over the years, it has ruled on numerous sensitive issues, some of which relate to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the rights of Arab citizens, and discrimination between Jewish groups in Israel.