High Court of Justice

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High Court of Justice
Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom from 1837 to 1952.png
Seal of HM Court's
Court overview
Formed1875
JurisdictionEngland and Wales
HeadquartersStrand
City of Westminster
London
Court executive
  • Judge of the High Court of Justice
Parent departmentHM Government

The High Court of Justice in London, together with the Court of Appeal of England and Wales and the Crown Court, are the Senior Courts of England and Wales. Its name is abbreviated as EWHC for legal citation purposes.

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.


History

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.

Role and Responsibilities

The High Court deals at Court of 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. 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 of the United Kingdom (the Judicial Functions of 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.

Divisions

The High Court is organised into three divisions: the Queen's Bench Division, the Chancery Division, and the Family Division.[1] A list of hearings in the High Court's divisions is published daily.[2]

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.

Proceedings

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.

Footnotes

  1. Williams, Smith (2010). p. 6.
  2. RCJ Daily court lists