Supreme Court of the United Kingdom


Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom was established in law by Part III of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. The Lord Chancellor has announced [cite web |url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200607/ldhansrd/text/70614-wms0002.htm#07061426000067 |title=Written Statement of the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary regarding the Supreme Court |publisher=Lords Hansard |date=2007-06-14] that it will start work in October 2009 once its new premises are ready. The Government estimate the set-up cost of the Supreme Court at £56.9 million. [cite web |url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldhansrd/text/80326w0003.htm#column_WA102 |title=Written Answer of the Ministry of Justice to question posed by Lord Steinberg (Col. WA102 |date=2008-03-26 |publisher=Lords Hansard]

It will take over the judicial functions of the House of Lords, which are currently exercised by the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (Law Lords), a small number of members of the House of Lords. It will also assume some functions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The court will be the supreme court (court of last resort, highest appellate court) in all matters under English law, Welsh law (to the extent that the National Assembly for Wales makes laws for Wales that differ from those in England) and Northern Irish law.

It will not have authority over criminal cases in Scotland, where the High Court of Justiciary will remain the supreme criminal court. However, it will hear appeals from the civil Court of Session, just as the House of Lords does today.

It will also determine devolution issues; that is, cases in which the legal powers of the three devolved governments – the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly Government – or laws made by the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament or National Assembly for Wales are questioned. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council currently has jurisdiction over these cases.

Existing Supreme Courts in the UK

The new Supreme Court should not be confused with the Supreme Court of England and Wales, which was created in the 1870s under the Judicature Acts, nor with the Supreme Court of Judicature in Northern Ireland, each of which consists of a Court of Appeal, High Court of Justice and Crown Court. When the provisions of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 come into force, creating the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, the present Supreme Courts will become known as the Senior Courts of England and Wales and the Court of Judicature respectively, to avoid confusion.

The High Court of Justiciary, the Court of Session, and the Office of the Accountant of Court comprise the College of Justice (Supreme Courts of Scotland). [cite web |url=http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/docs/you_and_us/recruitment/SCS%20An%20Introduction.pdf |title=Scottish Court Service: An Introduction |format=PDF |quote=The Supreme Courts are made up of the Court of Session, the High Court of Justiciary and the Accountant of Court's Office |publisher=Scottish Court Service |accessdate=2008-05-23]

Jurisdiction

The main role of the UK Supreme Court will be to hear appeals from courts in the United Kingdom's three legal systems: England & Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. The Court's focus will be on cases which raise points of law of general public importance. Like the current Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, appeals from many fields of law are likely to be selected for hearing - including commercial disputes, family matters, judicial review claims against public authorities and issues under the Human Rights Act 1998. The Court will also hear some criminal appeals, but not from Scotland as there will be no right of appeal from the High Court of Justiciary (Scotland's highest criminal court).

The UK Supreme Court will also determine "devolution issues" (as defined by the Scotland Act 1998, the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 2006). These are legal proceedings about the powers of the three devolved administrations – the Northern Ireland Executive and Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh Assembly Government and the National Assembly for Wales. Devolution issues are currently heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and most are about compliance with rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, brought into national law by the Devolution Acts and the Human Rights Act 1998.

The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords will cease to exist after October 2009. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council will, however, continue, located within the new Supreme Court building, as it is the final court of appeal for several States in the Commonwealth of Nations and British overseas territories.

Reasons for and against creation

The main argument in favour of establishing the court was that the House of Lord's role as a legislature and judiciary should be separated. It was claimed this confused people and was contrary to the principles of separation of powers (the idea that in a democracy, the executive, legislative and judicial powers should be held by separate actors). The main argument against the court was that the previous system had worked well and kept costs down.

The Government's plans to create the Supreme Court, announced in June 2003, were controversial and were brought forward with little consultation. During 2004, a select committee of the House of Lords scrutinised the arguments for and against setting up a new court. [cite web |url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200304/ldselect/ldcref/125/12505.htm |title=Lords Select Committee on the Constitutional Reform Bill First Report]

Building

The new quarters of the Supreme Court will be housed away from the Parliament in the Palace of Westminster. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 gives time for a suitable building to be found and fitted out before the Law Lords move out of the Palace of Westminster. After a lengthy survey of suitable sites, including Somerset House, the Government announced that the location for the new court will be the Middlesex Guildhall, in Parliament Square, Westminster. That decision was the subject of a inquiry by a committee of Parliament. [cite web |url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmconst/465/7041701.htm |title=Minutes of Oral Evidence Taken before the Constitutional Affairs Committee 17 April 2007 |accessdate=2008-05-23] and the grant of planning permission by Westminster City Council for refurbishment works was challenged in judicial review proceedings by the pressure group SAVE Britain's Heritage. [cite web |url=http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2007/807.html |title="The Queen ex rel. Save Britain's Heritage v. Westminster City Council" |publisher=High Court (Administrative Court) |accessdate=2008-05-23] Feilden + Mawson LLP, supported by Foster & Partners, were appointed architects for the project. [cite web |url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070115/text/70115w0026.htm |title=Questions to the Department for Constitutional Affairs, 15 January 2007 (Col. 877W) |publisher=Commons Hansard] The building is expected to re-open after renovation in October 2009.

Appointment of judges

The Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (Law Lords) who hold office when the Supreme Court begins work in October 2009 will be the first justices of the 12-member Supreme Court, with the senior Law Lord, currently Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers as the court's first president. [cite web |url=http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page15158.asp |title=Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers appointed as senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary]

The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 makes provision for a new appointments process for Justices of the Supreme Court. A selection commission will be formed when vacancies arise. This will be composed of the President and Deputy President of the Supreme Court and a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission of England and Wales, the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland and the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission. In October 2007, the Ministry of Justice announced that this appointments process would be adopted on a volunatry basis for appointments of Lords of Appeal in Ordinary. [http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/announcement_081007c.htm]

New judges appointed to the Supreme Court after its creation will not receive peerages, nor will they be members of the House of Lords.

References

* Andrew Le Sueur (ed), "Building the UK's New Supreme Court: National and Comparative Perspectives" (Oxford University Press 2004) ISBN-10: 0-19-926462-7 [http://www.oup.com/uk/catalogue/?ci=9780199264629]
* Derek Morgan (ed), "Constitutional Innovation: the creation of a Surpeme Court for the United Kingdom" (A special issue of the "Legal Studies" [http://www.legalscholars.ac.uk/text/publications/page.cfm?no=16] , the Journal of the Society of Legal Scholars).

ee also

*Courts of the United Kingdom
*Courts of England and Wales
*Courts of Northern Ireland
*Courts of Scotland

External links

* [http://www.justice.gov.uk/whatwedo/supremecourt.htm Ministry of Justice, Supreme Court site]
* [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2005/20050004.htm Constitutional Reform Act 2005 full text] (Office of Public Sector Information)
*cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6143744.stm |title=Grand designs |date=2007-03-07 |accessdate=2007-03-07 |publisher=BBC News


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