Courts of the United Kingdom

The Courts of the United Kingdom are separated into three separate jurisdictions, the Courts of England and Wales, Courts of Scotland and the Courts of Northern Ireland, as the United Kingdom does not have a single unified judicial system.

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However, in the area of immigration law, the respective jurisdictions of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and the Special Immigration Appeals Commission cover all of the United Kingdom; in employment law, Employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal have jurisdiction in the whole of Great Britain (i.e., not in Northern Ireland).

The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 created a new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom to take over the judicial functions of the House of Lords and devolution cases from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.[1][2] The Supreme Court began work in 2009, and serves as the highest court of appeal for all cases in England and Wales and in Northern Ireland, but only for civil cases in Scotland.[3] The High Court of Justiciary remains the court of last resort in Scotland for criminal cases.[4]

Court buildings

Many UK court buildings are in a poor state of repair and cannot be used. This leads to delays before cases are heard. Caroline Goodwin of the Criminal Bar Association said, “At the moment, 40% of criminal courts are sitting empty. You can’t get access to court. How is that access to justice? Unless there’s investment [the criminal justice system is] going to fail and falter.” Goodwin also feels there are too few judges and recorders she said, “If the courts are not sitting then justice can’t be done. More sitting days. [We need to] reduce the backlog that is bound to increase.”[5]

See also


  1. "Constitutional reform: A Supreme Court for the United Kingdom" (PDF). Department for Constitutional Affairs. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 January 2009. Retrieved 2 September 2009.
  2. "Part 3, Constitutional Reform Act 2005". Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. 4. 24 March 2005. p. 3. Retrieved 2 September 2009.
  3. "Role of the Supreme Court". Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 2 September 2009.
  4. "Section 40, Part 3, Constitutional Reform Act 2005". Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. 4. 24 March 2005. p. 3(40)(3). Retrieved 2 September 2009. An appeal lies to the Court from any order or judgment of a court in Scotland if an appeal lay from that court to the House of Lords at or immediately before the commencement of this section.
  5. Jump in unrepresented defendants as legal aid cuts continue to bite The Guardian
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