High Court of Justice

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Royal Courts of Justice , courthouse in London which also houses the High Court of Justice

The High Court of Justice , also known as the High Court of England and Wales or High Court for short , (abbreviated EWHC ) is one of the senior courts of England and Wales in the judicial organization of , along with the Crown Court (criminal court) and the Court of Appeal (court of appeal) . England and Wales .

He handles all major and important cases in the first instance and also oversees all lower courts and many tribunals . Appeals against High Court judgments in civil cases are made to the Court of Appeal (civil division) and then to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom .


The High Court of Justice was established in 1875 by the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873 . This law created eight English courts, some of which date back to the Middle Ages – 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 – merged into a new Supreme Court of Judicature (now known as the Senior Courts of England and Wales ). This simplified the complicated and ineffective legal system in England and Wales. The new Supreme Court was divided into the Court of Appeal , which exercised appellate jurisdiction , and the High Court , which exercised actual jurisdiction over contentious matters.

Originally the High Court consisted of five divisions: King's and Queen's Bench , Common Pleas , Exchequer , Chancery and Probate, Divorce and Admiralty . In 1880 the Common Pleas and Exchequer departments were abolished, leaving three departments. The Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division was renamed the Family Division by the Administration of Justice Act 1970 and its jurisdiction reorganized accordingly.

With the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (Supreme Court of the United Kingdom) created by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 , the High Court of Justice had to accept a loss of importance. This has been the supreme judicial authority in the United Kingdom since October 1, 2009 .


The High Court is located in the Royal Courts of Justice building on The Strand in central London . District Secretariats are also located throughout England and Wales. Almost all High Court business can be entered and heard at these secretariats. The High Court is led by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. At present Ian Burnett, Baron Burnett of Maldon is Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

All male judges are promoted to Knight Bachelor ; the judges are made Dames Commander of the British Empire .

The High Court is divided into three divisions, the Queen's Bench Division , the Chancery Division and the Family Division . There is also the Senior Courts Costs Office , which is responsible for assessing court costs.

Queen's Bench Division

The Queen's Bench Division — or King's Bench Division , when the reigning monarch is a king — has two jobs: hearing a wide range of cases involving contract law, personal injury and general negligence. However, it also has a special responsibility as a court with oversight. The Chair of the Queen's Bench Division was the Lord Chief Justice until 2005 . The office of President of the Queen's Bench Division was only created by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 , with the Lord Chief Justice remaining as President of the remaining divisions. Sir Igor Judge was the first incumbent, appointed in October 2005.

The Queen's Bench Division judges , together with the Circuit Judges , also exercise criminal jurisdiction when sitting in the Crown Court . In addition, the divisional court hears appeals of appeals from magistrates' courts and from crown courts that have already heard appeals from magistrates' courts . All claims for judicial review of administrative decisions or decisions of lower courts will be heard by a Queen's Bench Judge or a departmental court. Appeals from the High Court in civil matters lie with the Court of Appeal , the civil division, in criminal matters exclusively with the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom .

Subdivisions of the Queen's Bench Division include the Commercial Court , Admiralty Court and Administrative Court , where claims for judicial review are heard.

Chancery Division

The Chancery Division deals with business law, antitrust law, will law and property law relating to equity . In addition, a special department deals with intellectual property law and corporate law . The chancery division is chaired by the vice chancellor.

Family Division

The Family Division deals with matters such as divorce , children , inheritance and medical treatment . Its decisions can affect life or death and may be viewed as controversial. For example, a hospital was allowed to separate conjoined twins without parental consent; a woman has also been allowed to have her life support machine turned off, while a husband has been banned from giving his severely disabled wife a lethal injection with her consent. The High Court Family Division has jurisdiction over all cases involving the welfare and interests of children and exercises exclusive jurisdiction over guardianship matters. The Family Division is led by the President of the Family Division . Its highest division is the Principal Registry of the Family Division , which is based at First Avenue House , Holborn, London.

The Family Division is comparatively modern, as it arose from the merger of the Admiralty Court and the succession courts to form the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division , hence the High Court 's division of succession, divorce and maritime law ; also known colloquially as Wills, Wrecks and Wives .

The Oversight Role of the High Court and District Judges

Historically in England the monarch is the source of all justice. All judges exercise justice on his behalf, which is why all judges have the royal coat of arms behind them. State law enforcement is generally carried out on behalf of the monarch. Historically, local lords were permitted to hold courts in manorial courts and in other ways. It was inevitable that the jurisdiction exercised was very patchy and grievances were addressed directly to the king. Traveling commissioners of the king, whose main purpose was to collect taxes, acted on behalf of the king to unify the administration of justice. The tradition of traveling judges to remote areas of the country, known as circuits , continues to this day, hearing cases in the District Secretariats of the High Court .

The supreme authority of the Queen's Bench over the lower courts and authorities is also exercised on behalf of the monarch. In general, anyone may appeal a lower court or authority's decision and seek a judicial review with the Queen's Bench Division , unless other remedies are provided by law. There is a special procedure for this in the Administrative Court of the Queen's Bench Division : First, a single judge decides on the admission of the claim in order to weed out unreasonable and hopeless cases. After the lawsuit is admitted, there will be a full legal hearing. This is not a jury matter. Appeals go first to the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) and then to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom , or in criminal cases directly to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom .

web links


  1. Arthur Wilson, The Supreme Court of Judicature Acts 1873 and 1875. Schedule of Rules and Forms, and other Rules and Orders. With notes . In: archive.org . Stevens and Sons. 1875
  2. Text of the Administration of Justice Act 1970 from legislation.gov.uk.
  3. ^ a b Constitutional Reform Act 2005
  4. Lord Chief Justice at judiciary.uk

Coordinates: 51° 30′ 49″  N , 0° 6′ 48″  W