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Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

In October 2009, The Supreme Court replaced the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords as the highest court in the United Kingdom. The Supreme Courts 12 Justices maintain the highest standards set by the Appellate Committee, but are now explicitly separate from both Government and Parliament. The Court hears appeals on arguable points of law of the greatest public importance, for the whole of the United Kingdom in civil cases, and for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in criminal cases. Additionally, it hears cases on devolution matters under the Scotland Act 1998, the Northern Ireland Act 1988 and the Government of Wales Act 2006. This jurisdiction was transferred to the Supreme Court from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Supreme Court sits in the former Middlesex Guildhall, on the western side of Parliament Square. This new location is highly symbolic of the United Kingdoms separation of powers, balancing judiciary and legislature across the open space of Parliament Square, with the other two sides occupied by the executive (the Treasury building) and the church (Westminster Abbey). The Supreme Court also decides devolution issues, that is issues about whether the devolved executive and legislative authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have acted or propose to act within their powers or have failed to comply with any other duty imposed on them. Devolution cases can reach the Supreme Court in three ways:

Through a reference from someone who can exercise relevant statutory powers such as the Attorney General, whether or not the issue is the subject of litigation Through an appeal from certain higher courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland Through a reference from certain appellate courts.

Significance to the UK Courts are the final arbiter between the citizen and the state, and are therefore a fundamental pillar of the constitution. The Supreme Court has been established to achieve a complete separation between the United Kingdoms senior Judges and the Upper House of Parliament, emphasising the independence of the Law Lords and increasing the transparency between Parliament

and the courts. In August 2009 the Justices moved out of the House of Lords (where they sat as the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords) into their own building on the opposite side of Parliament Square. They will sit for the first time as a Supreme Court in October 2009. The impact of Supreme Court decisions will extend far beyond the parties involved in any given case, shaping our society, and directly affecting our everyday lives. For instance, in their previous role as the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, the Justices gave landmark rulings on the legality of the Hunting Act 2004 under European law, and whether or not a schoolgirl could be prevented from wearing traditional cultural dress. Role of the Supreme Court The Supreme Court, as well as being the final court of appeal, plays an important role in the development of United Kingdom law. As an appeal court, The Supreme Court cannot consider a case unless a relevant order has been made in a lower court. The Supreme Court:

is the final court of appeal for all United Kingdom civil cases, and criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland hears appeals on arguable points of law of general public importance concentrates on cases of the greatest public and constitutional importance maintains and develops the role of the highest court in the United Kingdom as a leader in the common law world

The Supreme Court hears appeals from the following courts in each jurisdiction: England and Wales

The Court of Appeal, Civil Division The Court of Appeal, Criminal Division (in some limited cases) the High Court


The Court of Session (supreme civil court of Scotland)

Northern Ireland

The Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland (in some limited cases) the High Court

The Supreme Court and Europe The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal in the United Kingdom. However, The Court must give effect to directly applicable European Union law, and interpret domestic law so far as possible consistently with European Union law. It must also give effect to the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. Under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (article 267), The Court must refer to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg any question of European Union law, where the answer is not clear and is necessary for it to give judgment. In giving effect to rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights, The Court must take account of any decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. No national court should without strong reason dilute or weaken the effect of the Strasbourg case law (Lord Bingham of Cornhill in R (Ullah) v Special Adjudicator [2004] UKHL 26). An individual contending that his Convention rights have not been respected by a decision of a United Kingdom court (including The Supreme Court) against which he has no domestic recourse may bring a claim against the United Kingdom before the European Court of Human Rights. History The creation of a Supreme Court for the United Kingdom was first mooted in a July 2003 Department of Constitutional Affairs Consultation Paper. Although the report noted that there had been no criticism of the current law lords, or any indication of an actual bias, it argued that the separation of the judicial functions of the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords should be made explicit from the legislative functions of the House of Lords. First, it was concerned whether there is any longer sufficient transparency of independence from the executive and the legislature to give assurance of the independence of the judiciary. Looked at alternatively it was argued that requirement for the appearance of impartiality and independence also limited the ability of the Law Lords to contribute to the work of the House of Lords, thus reducing the value to both them and the House of their membership. Second, it was concerned that it was not always understood by the public that judicial decisions of "the House of Lords" were in fact taken by the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords and that nonjudicial members were never involved in its judgments. Conversely, it was felt that the extent to which the Law Lords themselves have decided to refrain from getting involved in political issues in relation to legislation on which they might later have to

adjudicate was not always appreciated. The new President of the Court, Lord Phillips, has claimed that their old position had confused people and that with the Supreme Court there would for the first time in the UK be a clear separation of powers among the judiciary, the legislature and the executive. Finally, it was noted that space within the House of Lords was at a constant premium and a separate supreme court would ease the pressure on the Palace of Westminster. The main argument against the court was that the previous system had worked well and kept costs down. Reformers expressed concerns that the historical admixture of legislative, judicial and executive power in the UK might conflict with the state's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Officials who make or execute laws have an interest in court cases that put those laws to the test. When the state invests judicial authority in those officials, it puts the independence and impartiality of the courts at risk. Consequently, it was supposedly possible that the decisions of the Law Lords might be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights on the basis that they had not constituted a fair trial. Lord Neuberger has expressed fear that the new court could make itself more powerful than the House of Lords committee it succeeded, saying that there is a real risk of "judges arrogating to themselves greater power than they have at the moment". Lord Phillips said such an outcome was "a possibility", but was "unlikely". The reforms were controversial and were brought forward with little consultation but were subsequently extensively debated in Parliament. During 2004, a select committee of the House of Lords scrutinized the arguments for and against setting up a new court. The Government estimated the set-up cost of the Supreme Court at 56.9 million. The Supreme Court was established by Part 3 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and started work on 1 October 2009. It assumed the judicial functions of the House of Lords, which were exercised by the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (commonly called "Law Lords"), the 12 professional judges appointed as members of the House of Lords to carry out its judicial business. Its jurisdiction over devolution matters had previously been held by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. However, the twelve justices do not all hear every case - typically a case will be heard by a panel of five justices, but sometimes the panel may consist of three, seven or nine members. All twelve justices are also members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and spend some of their time in that capacity. Composition Organisation President

The current President of the Court is Nicholas Phillips, Baron Phillips of Worth Matravers, former Master of the Rolls and Lord Chief Justice, and previously the Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. Deputy President The current Deputy President of the Court is David Hope, Baron Hope of Craighead, one of the two present Scottish judges and former Lord President of the Court of Session. Justices Justices of the Supreme Court are not subject to term limits, but may be removed from office on the address of Parliament. All British judges (including Supreme Court justices) are forced to retire at the age of 70 if first appointed to a judicial office after 31 March 1995, or at the age of 75 otherwise. Acting judges In addition to the twelve permanent Justices, the President may request other senior judges, drawn from two groups, to sit as "acting judges" of the Supreme Court.

The first group is those judges who hold 'office as a senior territorial judge': judges of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, judges of the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland and judges of the First or Second Division of the Inner House of the Court of Session in Scotland. The second group is known as the 'supplementary panel'. The President may approve in writing retired senior judges' membership of this panel if they are under 75 years of age.

Chief Executive and Registrar The first Chief Executive of the Court is Jenny Rowe, and the first Registrar, Louise di Mambro.