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86. and the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division). the Supreme Court.There is no precise principle which distinguishes superior and inferior courts. However. to courts which can hear any case about virtually any aspect of law no matter where the dispute took place. inferior courts have more limited powers when imposing sanctions for contempt of court. other courts are treated as superior courts for some other purposes. the High Court. First. It is generally accepted that the superior courts are the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. 2 . Such reports are then published in one of the number of series of law reports. SUPERIOR COURTS AND INFERIOR COURTS. the Supreme Court (and therefore formerly the House of Lords). 1 R Versus Cripps [1984] QBD 68 at p. High Court. The Supreme Court also deals with criminal appeals.Courts which primarily deal with criminal law matters are the magistrates’ courts. the work of inferior courts is subject to judicial review under the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court. Some courts deal primarily with civil law matters (the country court. Sometimes. Goff LJ gives the example of the country court exercising jurisdiction under the Bankruptcy Acts 1883 and 1890 where s. Court of Appeal. 100 of the 1883 Act gives the country court ‘ all the powers and jurisdiction of the High Court. It is only those courts whose decisions are reported 2 which can contribute directly to the development of the law. They vary from small courts which have limited jurisdiction over a particular geographical area or a particular type of dispute. the Court of Appeal (Civil Division). CIVIL AND CRIMINAL COURTS. Crown Court. whose decisions are regularly reported and those courts whose decisions are rarely reported. III.A third distinction that could be drawn between courts.1 The distinction between superior courts and inferior courts is important for two reasons. Second. the new Upper Tribunal and the Court of Protection. Employment Appeal Tribunal. I. crown courts. REPORTED COURTS.CATEGORIES OF COURTS Within the English legal system there are large numbers of courts.’ 2 Any decision which has been reported by a barrister or solicitor with a right of audience in relation to all proceedings in the Supreme Court or any other person with such a right may be used as a precedent. this list is not entirely complete. II.

Since the passage of the European Communities Act in 1972. for which there was no right of appeal. It established an important principle. Mrs Marshall had evidently long since retired before this verdict was reached. if you like. and her only tangible benefit was the compensation that she was awarded. interprets and enforces the law of the EU.INDIVIDUAL COURTS3 1. the United Kingdom has by virtue of the statute. Any decision made by the High Court. At one time. Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court can be overturned in an instant by the European Court of Justice. that the European Court of Justice must have supreme law making power. over those areas of law that relate to the European Union. Her attempts to resolve this claim in the courts were destined for frustration as she was bounced from one court to another over a period of 16 years. Her employers allowed her to work another two years. which reached a verdict in her favour. because it means that control has been largely handed over to a court that consists almost entirely of foreigners (only one of its members is British). there needs to be a court that applies the same body of law throughout all those countries that are part of the European Union. Eventually. which has subsequently affected the employment conditions of all women. They stated that to discriminate in the workplace on the basis of gender was contrary to principles of European law and was therefore illegal. the case reached the European Court of Justice. and who reached the age of 60. Membership of the European Union however entails that there is now a higher court even than this. Otherwise the idea of Europe simply wouldn't work. or in other words where those areas of law which are covered by European law). Hence it follows. The illustration of its powers was seen in the case of Marshall Versus Southampton and South West Hampshire Area Health Authority [1994]. the Supreme Court was the highest court in the land. The fundamental idea that lies behind the fact that the ECJ is the highest court in the hierarchy is the idea that the EU is supranational (it's above the nation's state). where Mrs Marshall was a dietician. but then compelled her to retire. does it not. The ECJ develop. the most supreme court in the hierarchy of courts is the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. though. The Court of Justice of the European Union. She argued that it was very unfair that she should be forced to retire at 60 when her male colleagues had the privilege of being able to carry on working until they were 65. the European Court of Justice. 3 Fiona Cownie & Anthony Bradney. and for this concept to work. working in a hospital. and this represents a fundamental loss of sovereignty. it's the highest court in the EU and it outranks national Supreme Courts but only in those areas of law that are relevant to the EU (In other words technically and correctly. English Legal System in Context (Sixth Edition) 3 . however. but only in those areas of law where the European Union has jurisdiction. been subject to European Community Law.

In deciding a particular case. I'm holding a piano rope. The important way in which the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court are not treated in the same manner is in their freedom to make new law. You're walking along the street. The Queen's Bench: these Courts is called such because there is presently a queen on the throne. injuring you. it is not forced to come to the same decision that it did in another case with similar facts.e: Let's say I'm hauling a piano up to a second floor flat on a rope. the Court of Appeal is bound its own decisions. you would obviously want to sue me. Wales and Northern Ireland) for civil and criminal cases. known as ‘Justices of the Supreme Court.e. matters relating to devolution within the United Kingdom) of the Privy Council. The Court of Appeal is divided into two divisions i. Court of Appeal is a court of record. 2005. such 4 Senior Courts Act. 2005. when it acts as a legislature. wouldn't you? We're not in a contractual relationship. 4 The Criminal division inherited the jurisdiction of the now defunct Court of Criminal Appeal.Section 3 (1) 4 . Let's say you're walking along the street. even if that similar case was decided only a very short time previously. Now. or property. The establishment of the Supreme Court means that there is a more complete separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature. civil division and Criminal division. 3. wrongs against property. the Court of Appeal is largely an appellate court. But. because the judges of the Supreme Court do not have the right to sit in the House of Lords. i. and a court whose cases are regularly reported. A. The Court of Appeal. It deals with actions relating to various different kinds of tort. which created a new selection process to choose future justices of the Supreme Court. a superior court. It concentrates in cases of great public and constitutional importance. Torts are civil wrongs in the breach of contract.’ Future appointments to the Supreme Court are governed by the Constitutional Reform Act. 1981. a superior court and a court whose cases are mainly reported. However. So there's no contractual wrong done committed against you. The Supreme Court (formerly the House of Lords) it is the final court of appeal of the whole of the UK (England.2.e. The Supreme Court. if there is a king on the throne it's called the King's Bench Division of the high court. It exercises the former appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords and the former devolution jurisdiction (i. The Supreme Court consists of 12 Judges. Torts can be wrongs against the person such as defamation. The Supreme Court is not bound by its own previous decisions. Like Supreme Court.It came into existence in 2009 as a result of the implementation of the Constitutional Reform Act. such as trespass. Both divisions are usually multi-judge courts. the rope breaks and the piano falls on your head. It is thus more restricted in its law making.The Court of appeal is a much larger court with a much wider group of people who can act as judges. It is the final court of appeal within the English legal system. or wrongs which may be against people. It is a court of record.

Family division: acts on cases of divorce and custody of children. The Crown Court largely specializes in trying criminal matters. trade. The County Courts are first set up under the County Courts Act 1846. and the Queen’s division. 4. which is why the Crown Court has an appellate jurisdiction over decisions of the Magistrates Court. for instance if their sentencing powers are too restricted to deal with the kind of case that that is before them. which show negligence and breach of a contractual duty of care (where someone has the duty to take care of another). 6. It's also possible for the Magistrates' Court to refer cases to the Crown Court to be dealt with. It owes its origin to the Courts Act 1971 which implemented the recommendations of the Beeching Commission which had reported in 1969. and the Crown Court acting in its appellate capacity. the family division. However. In law each of these divisions is part of the same court but in practice. The 1981 Act gives Crown Court exclusive jurisdiction over all trials brought on indictment. it is not strictly acting as an appeal court. The Crown Court also has a limited jurisdiction over civil matters. intellectual property matters. It can also hear appeals from magistrates’ courts in a variety of civil cases. The QBD can hear appeals from the Magistrates' Court and from the Crown Court. It now consists of three divisions. Crown Court cases originate from Magistrates' Courts. The Queen's Bench Division also has a supervisory jurisdiction over cases from the Magistrates' Court. The High Court. copyrights and patents. the Crown Court. industry disputes. enforcement of mortgages. the different divisions acts as though they were separate courts. both criminal courts. 5. The High Court is normally a single judge court.It is a specialized court. It also has a very limited jurisdiction to hear appeal from the County Courts. the Court is not exclusively a court with criminal jurisdiction. These are Chancery Division.It is a superior court of record whose decisions are frequently reported. The 1846 Act attempted 5 .as negligence or nuisance. The QBD also deals with matters that involve both contract and tort. It is predominantly a civil court. relating to matters of sentence or conviction. The County Court. it's performing a different operation called judicial review. Chancellory: acts on corporate and personal insolvency.The jurisdiction for the Crown Court is found in the Senior Courts Act 1981. The Commission recommended the abolition of a number of existing courts and their replacement by a single new court. in particular. The Crown Court. this includes a limited power to hear appeals from the Magistrates on civil matters. when the Queen's Bench Division is exercising its supervisory jurisdiction. trust property and contentious probate actions. such as personal injury cases. business. B. It is a court which has both a substantial appellate and a substantial original jurisdiction. C.

Either the offence in itself a minor matter or the particular incident is of little consequence. Their location is distributed through the country in such a way as to make them as physically accessible as possible. 7. Their decisions are rarely reported. They are at the bottom of the hierarchy of courts in the English legal system. The cases they hear are relatively trivial. Magistrates’ Court.Deals largely with criminal matters and are inferior courts. They are also most local of courts. They are not courts of record. THE HIERARCHY OF COURTS JURISDICTION 6 . with a single circuit judge being assigned to each district. The County Courts are grouped together into set a court jurisdiction that could efficiently deal with minor civil claims.

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