Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
Overview
 
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) is one of the highest court
Court
A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law...

s in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. Established by the Judicial Committee Act 1833 to hear appeals formerly heard by the King in Council (s. 3), it is the highest court of appeal (or court of last resort) for several independent Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 countries, as well as for the United Kingdom's overseas territories
British overseas territories
The British Overseas Territories are fourteen territories of the United Kingdom which, although they do not form part of the United Kingdom itself, fall under its jurisdiction. They are remnants of the British Empire that have not acquired independence or have voted to remain British territories...

, and the British Crown Dependencies. It is often referred to as the Privy Council, as in most cases appeals are made to "Her Majesty in Council" (i.e.
Encyclopedia
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) is one of the highest court
Court
A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law...

s in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. Established by the Judicial Committee Act 1833 to hear appeals formerly heard by the King in Council (s. 3), it is the highest court of appeal (or court of last resort) for several independent Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 countries, as well as for the United Kingdom's overseas territories
British overseas territories
The British Overseas Territories are fourteen territories of the United Kingdom which, although they do not form part of the United Kingdom itself, fall under its jurisdiction. They are remnants of the British Empire that have not acquired independence or have voted to remain British territories...

, and the British Crown Dependencies. It is often referred to as the Privy Council, as in most cases appeals are made to "Her Majesty in Council" (i.e. the British monarch as formally advised by her Privy Counsellors
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign in the United Kingdom...

), who then refers the case to the Judicial Committee for "advice"; the "report" of the Judicial Committee is always accepted by the Queen in Council as judgment. The panel of judges (typically five in number) hearing a particular case is known as "the Board".

In Commonwealth republics retaining the JCPC as their final court of appeal, appeals are made directly to the Judicial Committee itself. In the case of Brunei
Brunei
Brunei , officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace , is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia...

, appeals are made to the Sultan of Brunei, who then refers the case to the Judicial Committee for advice.

Formerly the Judicial Committee gave a unanimous report, but since the 1960s dissenting opinion
Dissenting opinion
A dissenting opinion is an opinion in a legal case written by one or more judges expressing disagreement with the majority opinion of the court which gives rise to its judgment....

s have been allowed. In July 2007, the Judicial Committee held that it had the power to depart from precedent
Precedent
In common law legal systems, a precedent or authority is a principle or rule established in a legal case that a court or other judicial body may apply when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts...

 if it concluded that one of its own previous decisions was incorrect.

The Judicial Committee's permanent home is in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, in the United Kingdom. On 1 October 2009, it moved from the Privy Council Chamber, in Downing Street
Downing Street
Downing Street in London, England has for over two hundred years housed the official residences of two of the most senior British cabinet ministers: the First Lord of the Treasury, an office now synonymous with that of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the Second Lord of the Treasury, an...

, to the former Middlesex Guildhall
Middlesex Guildhall
The Middlesex Guildhall is the home of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. It stands on the south-west corner of Parliament Square in London.-History:...

 building, which had been refurbished in 2007 to provide a home for both the JCPC and the newly-created Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the supreme court in all matters under English law, Northern Ireland law and Scottish civil law. It is the court of last resort and highest appellate court in the United Kingdom; however the High Court of Justiciary remains the supreme court for criminal...

. In this renovated building, Court 3 is used for Privy Council sittings.

On 18 December 2006, the Judicial Committee made history when for the first time in over 170 years it ventured outside of London, holding a five-day sitting in The Bahamas
The Bahamas
The Bahamas , officially the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, is a nation consisting of 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 islets . It is located in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cuba and Hispaniola , northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and southeast of the United States...

. Lords Bingham, Brown, Carswell, and Scott, and Baroness travelled to The Bahamas for the special sitting at the invitation of Dame Joan Sawyer
Joan Sawyer
Dame Joan Augusta Sawyer, DBE, PC was President of the Bahamas Court of Appeal from September 5, 2001. Formerly Chief Justice of the Commonwealth of the Bahama islands from October 26, 1996 to September 4, 2001, Sawyer was the first woman to ever serve as Chief Justice and President of the Court...

, the then President of the Court of Appeal of The Bahamas; the Committee returned to The Bahamas in December 2007 for a second sitting. On the latter occasion, Lords Hope, Rodger, Walker, and Manee, and Sir Christopher Rose, heard several cases. At the end of the sitting, Lord Hope indicated that there may be future sittings of the Committee in The Bahamas, and the Committee has indeed sat in The Bahamas again, in 2009.

The judicial system of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 is unusual in having no single highest national court; the Judicial Committee is the highest court of appeal in some cases, while in most others the highest court of appeal is the UK Supreme Court. (In Scotland the highest court in criminal cases is the High Court of Justiciary
High Court of Justiciary
The High Court of Justiciary is the supreme criminal court of Scotland.The High Court is both a court of first instance and a court of appeal. As a court of first instance, the High Court sits mainly in Parliament House, or in the former Sheriff Court building, in Edinburgh, but also sits from time...

; the UK Supreme Court is the highest court in civil cases and matters arising from Scottish devolution, the latter previously having been dealt with by the Judicial Committee.) Judgments of the Judicial Committee are not generally binding on courts within the United Kingdom, having only persuasive authority, but are binding on all courts within any other Commonwealth country from which an appeal is heard.

Domestic jurisdiction

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has jurisdiction in the following domestic matters:
  • Appeals against schemes of the Church Commissioners
    Church Commissioners
    The Church Commissioners is a body managing the historic property assets of the Church of England. It was set up in 1948 combining the assets of Queen Anne's Bounty, a fund dating from 1704 for the relief of poor clergy, and of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners formed in 1836...

     (who control the estate of the Church of England
    Church of England
    The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

    ).
  • Appeals from the ecclesiastical courts (the Arches Court
    Arches Court
    The Arches Court, presided over by the Dean of Arches, is an ecclesiastical court of the Church of England covering the Province of Canterbury. Its equivalent in the Province of York is the Chancery Court.-Provincial Court:...

     of Canterbury and the Chancery Court
    Chancery Court
    The Chancery Court of York is an ecclesiastical court for the Province of York of the Church of England.The presiding officer, the Official Principal and Auditor, has been the same person as the Dean of the Arches since the nineteenth century . The Court comprises the Auditor, two clergy and two...

     of York) in non-doctrinal faculty cases.
  • Appeals from the High Court of Chivalry.
  • Appeals from the Court of Admiralty
    Admiralty court
    Admiralty courts, also known as maritime courts, are courts exercising jurisdiction over all maritime contracts, torts, injuries and offences.- Admiralty Courts in England and Wales :...

     of the Cinque Ports
    Cinque Ports
    The Confederation of Cinque Ports is a historic series of coastal towns in Kent and Sussex. It was originally formed for military and trade purposes, but is now entirely ceremonial. It lies at the eastern end of the English Channel, where the crossing to the continent is narrowest...

    .
  • Appeals from Prize Courts.
  • Appeals from the Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
    Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
    The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons is the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons in the United Kingdom. Established in 1844 by Royal Charter, its statutory duties are laid out in the 1966 Veterinary Surgeons Act.-Role:...

    .
  • Disputes under the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975
    House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975
    The House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that prohibits certain categories of people from becoming members of the House of Commons...

    .


Additionally, the Government may (through the Queen) refer any issue to the committee for "consideration and report".

Judgments of the Judicial Committee in overseas cases are only of "persuasive authority" in other courts in the United Kingdom; so while those courts take them into account, they are not binding as a matter of law.

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is the Court of Final Appeal for the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

. It hears appeals from the Arches Court of Canterbury and the Chancery Court
Chancery Court
The Chancery Court of York is an ecclesiastical court for the Province of York of the Church of England.The presiding officer, the Official Principal and Auditor, has been the same person as the Dean of the Arches since the nineteenth century . The Court comprises the Auditor, two clergy and two...

 of York, except on matters of doctrine, ritual or ceremony, which go to the Court for Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved. By the Church Discipline Act 1840 and the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876
Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876
The Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that altered the judicial functions of the House of Lords. The act was repealed by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, which transferred the judicial functions from the House of Lords to the Supreme Court of the...

 all archbishops and bishops of the Church of England became eligible to be members of the Judicial Committee.

Prior to the coming into force of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005
Constitutional Reform Act 2005
The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It provided for a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom to take over the existing role of the Law Lords as well as some powers of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and removed the functions of Speaker of...

, the Privy Council was the court of last resort for devolution issues. On 1 October 2009 this jurisdiction was transferred to the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the supreme court in all matters under English law, Northern Ireland law and Scottish civil law. It is the court of last resort and highest appellate court in the United Kingdom; however the High Court of Justiciary remains the supreme court for criminal...

.

Overseas jurisdiction

The Judicial Committee holds jurisdiction in appeals from the following 31 jurisdictions (including 13 independent nations):

Appeal is to "Her Majesty in Council" from eight independent nations, and 18 other jurisdictions:
  • The Commonwealth realm
    Commonwealth Realm
    A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

    s of Antigua and Barbuda
    Antigua and Barbuda
    Antigua and Barbuda is a twin-island nation lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It consists of two major inhabited islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and a number of smaller islands...

    , The Bahamas
    The Bahamas
    The Bahamas , officially the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, is a nation consisting of 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 islets . It is located in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cuba and Hispaniola , northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and southeast of the United States...

    , Grenada
    Grenada
    Grenada is an island country and Commonwealth Realm consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea...

    , Jamaica
    Jamaica
    Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

    , Saint Kitts and Nevis
    Saint Kitts and Nevis
    The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis , located in the Leeward Islands, is a federal two-island nation in the West Indies. It is the smallest sovereign state in the Americas, in both area and population....

    , Saint Lucia
    Saint Lucia
    Saint Lucia is an island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 620 km2 and has an...

    , Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
    Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
    Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is an island country in the Lesser Antilles chain, namely in the southern portion of the Windward Islands, which lie at the southern end of the eastern border of the Caribbean Sea where the latter meets the Atlantic Ocean....

     and Tuvalu
    Tuvalu
    Tuvalu , formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. It comprises four reef islands and five true atolls...

    .
  • The New Zealand
    New Zealand
    New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

     associated states of Cook Islands
    Cook Islands
    The Cook Islands is a self-governing parliamentary democracy in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand...

     and Niue
    Niue
    Niue , is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean. It is commonly known as the "Rock of Polynesia", and inhabitants of the island call it "the Rock" for short. Niue is northeast of New Zealand in a triangle between Tonga to the southwest, the Samoas to the northwest, and the Cook Islands to...

    .
  • The Crown Dependencies of Jersey
    Law of Jersey
    The Law of Jersey has been influenced by several different legal traditions, in particular Norman customary law, English common law and modern French civil law. The Bailiwick of Jersey is a separate jurisdiction from that of the United Kingdom, and is also distinct from that of the other Channel...

    , Guernsey
    Guernsey
    Guernsey, officially the Bailiwick of Guernsey is a British Crown dependency in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy.The Bailiwick, as a governing entity, embraces not only all 10 parishes on the Island of Guernsey, but also the islands of Herm, Jethou, Burhou, and Lihou and their islet...

    , including Guernsey's own dependencies of Alderney
    Alderney
    Alderney is the most northerly of the Channel Islands. It is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, a British Crown dependency. It is long and wide. The area is , making it the third-largest island of the Channel Islands, and the second largest in the Bailiwick...

     and Sark
    Sark
    Sark is a small island in the Channel Islands in southwestern English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. It is a royal fief, geographically located in the Channel Islands in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, with its own set of laws based on Norman law and its own parliament. It has a population...

    , and appeals from the Staff of Government Division
    Staff of Government Division
    The Staff of Government Division of the High Court of Justice is the Court of Appeal in the Isle of Man. It hears all appeals, both criminal and civil, from the High Court...

     on the Isle of Man
    Isle of Man
    The Isle of Man , otherwise known simply as Mann , is a self-governing British Crown Dependency, located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Mann. The Lord of Mann is...

    .
  • The British overseas territories
    British overseas territories
    The British Overseas Territories are fourteen territories of the United Kingdom which, although they do not form part of the United Kingdom itself, fall under its jurisdiction. They are remnants of the British Empire that have not acquired independence or have voted to remain British territories...

     of Anguilla
    Anguilla
    Anguilla is a British overseas territory and overseas territory of the European Union in the Caribbean. It is one of the most northerly of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, lying east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and directly north of Saint Martin...

    , Bermuda
    Bermuda
    Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about to the west-northwest. It is about south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and northeast of Miami, Florida...

    , the British Virgin Islands
    British Virgin Islands
    The Virgin Islands, often called the British Virgin Islands , is a British overseas territory and overseas territory of the European Union, located in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico. The islands make up part of the Virgin Islands archipelago, the remaining islands constituting the U.S...

    , the Cayman Islands
    Cayman Islands
    The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory and overseas territory of the European Union located in the western Caribbean Sea. The territory comprises the three islands of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman, located south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica...

    , the Falkland Islands
    Falkland Islands
    The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located about from the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago consists of East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 lesser islands. The capital, Stanley, is on East Falkland...

    , Gibraltar
    Gibraltar
    Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

    , Montserrat
    Montserrat
    Montserrat is a British overseas territory located in the Leeward Islands, part of the chain of islands called the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies. This island measures approximately long and wide, giving of coastline...

    , St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
    Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
    Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha is a British overseas territory and overseas territory of the European Union consisting of the islands of Saint Helena, Ascension Island and the Tristan da Cunha group...

    , the Turks and Caicos Islands
    Turks and Caicos Islands
    The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory and overseas territory of the European Union consisting of two groups of tropical islands in the Caribbean, the larger Caicos Islands and the smaller Turks Islands, known for tourism and as an offshore financial centre.The Turks and...

    , the Pitcairn Islands
    Pitcairn Islands
    The Pitcairn Islands , officially named the Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, form a group of four volcanic islands in the southern Pacific Ocean. The islands are a British Overseas Territory and overseas territory of the European Union in the Pacific...

    , the British Antarctic Territory
    British Antarctic Territory
    The British Antarctic Territory is a sector of Antarctica claimed by the United Kingdom as one of its 14 British Overseas Territories. It comprises the region south of 60°S latitude and between longitudes and , forming a wedge shape that extends to the South Pole...

    , and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
    South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
    South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is a British overseas territory and overseas territory of the European Union in the southern Atlantic Ocean. It is a remote and inhospitable collection of islands, consisting of South Georgia and a chain of smaller islands, known as the South Sandwich...

    .
  • The United Kingdom's Sovereign Base Areas
    Sovereign Base Areas
    The Sovereign Base Areas are military bases located on territory in which the United Kingdom is sovereign, but which are separated from the ordinary British territory....

     of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, in Cyprus
    Cyprus
    Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

    .


Appeal is directly to the Judicial Committee from four independent nations:
  • The Commonwealth republic
    Commonwealth republic
    A republic in the Commonwealth of Nations is any one of the 33 sovereign states of the Commonwealth of Nations with a republican form of government...

    s of Dominica
    Dominica
    Dominica , officially the Commonwealth of Dominica, is an island nation in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea, south-southeast of Guadeloupe and northwest of Martinique. Its size is and the highest point in the country is Morne Diablotins, which has an elevation of . The Commonwealth...

    , Mauritius
    Mauritius
    Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

    , and Trinidad and Tobago
    Trinidad and Tobago
    Trinidad and Tobago officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles...

    , and also, if the case involves constitutional rights, Kiribati
    Kiribati
    Kiribati , officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. The permanent population exceeds just over 100,000 , and is composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres, straddling the...

    .


Appeal to the Head of State:
  • Brunei
    Brunei
    Brunei , officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace , is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia...

    , an independent member nation of the Commonwealth of Nations
    Commonwealth of Nations
    The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

    , has an agreement with the United Kingdom
    United Kingdom
    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

     that the Judicial Committee hears cases appealed to the Sultan, and reports back to him.

Members

The following are members of the Judicial Committee:
  • Justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
    Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
    The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the supreme court in all matters under English law, Northern Ireland law and Scottish civil law. It is the court of last resort and highest appellate court in the United Kingdom; however the High Court of Justiciary remains the supreme court for criminal...

     (before the establishment of that court in 2009, the "Lords of Appeal in Ordinary
    Lord of Appeal in Ordinary
    Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, commonly known as Law Lords, were appointed under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 to the House of Lords of the United Kingdom in order to exercise its judicial functions, which included acting as the highest court of appeal for most domestic matters...

    ")
  • Other Lords of Appeal (senior judges) from within the United Kingdom
  • Privy Counsellors who are (or have been) judges of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales
    Court of Appeal of England and Wales
    The Court of Appeal of England and Wales is the second most senior court in the English legal system, with only the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom above it...

    , the Inner House
    Inner House
    The Inner House is the senior part of the Court of Session, the supreme civil court in Scotland; the Outer House forms the junior part of the Court of Session. It is a court of appeal and a court of first instance...

     of the Court of Session
    Court of Session
    The Court of Session is the supreme civil court of Scotland, and constitutes part of the College of Justice. It sits in Parliament House in Edinburgh and is both a court of first instance and a court of appeal....

     in Scotland, or of the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland
  • Judges of certain superior courts in Commonwealth nations, who are appointed Privy Counsellors for the purpose of sitting in the JCPC


The bulk of the Committee's work is done by the Supreme Court Justices, who are paid to work full time in both the Supreme Court and the Privy Council. Overseas judges may not sit when certain UK domestic matters are being heard, but will often sit when appeals from their own countries are being heard.

Registrars

  • Louise Di Mambro 2010–
  • Mary Macdonald 2005–2010
  • John Watherston 1998–2005
  • D H O Owen 1983–1998
  • Eric Mills 1966–1983
  • Leslie Upton, CBE
    Order of the British Empire
    The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

     1963–1966
  • Aylmer Paterson 1954–1963
  • Colin Smith, MVO OBE
    Order of the British Empire
    The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

     ????–????
  • George Faber 1887–1896

Decline in Commonwealth appeals

Initially, all Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 realms
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

 and their territories maintained a right of appeal to the Privy Council. Many of those Commonwealth countries that became republics, or which had indigenous monarchies, preserved the Judicial Committee's jurisdiction by agreement with the United Kingdom. However, retention of a right of appeal to a court located overseas, made up mostly of British judges who may be out of tune with local values, has often come to be seen as incompatible with notions of an independent nation's sovereign status, and so a number of Commonwealth members have ended the right of appeal from their jurisdiction.

Australia

Australia effectively abolished the right of appeal from the Commonwealth Courts by statute, and from the State courts by the Australia Act 1986
Australia Act 1986
The Australia Act 1986 is the name given to a pair of separate but related pieces of legislation: one an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia, the other an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

(Cth). The Australian constitution
Constitution of Australia
The Constitution of Australia is the supreme law under which the Australian Commonwealth Government operates. It consists of several documents. The most important is the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia...

 still has a provision allowing the High Court of Australia
High Court of Australia
The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, has the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the States, and...

 to permit appeals to the Privy Council on inter se
Inter se
Inter se is a Legal Latin phrase meaning "between or amongst themselves". For example;In Australian constitutional law, it refers to matters concerning a dispute between the Commonwealth and one or more of the States concerning the extents of their respective powers....

 questions; however, the High Court has stated that it will not give such permission and that the jurisdiction to do so "has long since been spent" and is obsolete.

Canada

Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 created its Supreme Court
Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court of Canada and is the final court of appeals in the Canadian justice system. The court grants permission to between 40 and 75 litigants each year to appeal decisions rendered by provincial, territorial and federal appellate courts, and its decisions...

 in 1875 and abolished appeals to the Privy Council in criminal cases. However, in Nadan v The King [1926] AC 482 (PC) the Privy Council nevertheless granted an appellant leave to appeal a criminal conviction and ruled that the provision of the Canadian Criminal Code barring appeals to the Privy Council was ultra vires
Ultra vires
Ultra vires is a Latin phrase meaning literally "beyond the powers", although its standard legal translation and substitute is "beyond power". If an act requires legal authority and it is done with such authority, it is...

 the Canadian Parliament because it purported to legislate extraterritorially and purported to repeal imperial legislation. This together with the King–Byng Affair was a major irritant for Canada and provoked the discussion at the 1926 Imperial Conference which led to the Balfour Declaration
Balfour Declaration 1926
The Balfour Declaration of 1926, a report resulting from the 1926 Imperial Conference of British Empire leaders in London, was named after the British statesman Arthur Balfour, first Earl of Balfour, Lord President of the Council and a previous Prime Minister of the United Kingdom...

. With that Declaration and its statutory confirmation in the Statute of Westminster 1931
Statute of Westminster 1931
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Passed on 11 December 1931, the Act established legislative equality for the self-governing dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom...

 (Imp) the impediment to abolishing appeals to the Privy Council, whether or not it had been legitimate, was comprehensively removed. Criminal appeals to the Privy Council were ended in 1933. Moves to extend the abolition to civil matters were shelved during the growing international crisis of the 1930s but re-tabled after World War II and civil appeals ended in 1949. Cases begun before 1949 were still allowed to appeal after 1949 and the final case to make it to the Council was not until 1959 with the case of Ponoka-Calmar Oils v Wakefield [1960] AC 18.

The JCPC played a controversial role in the evolution of Canadian federalism
Federalism
Federalism is a political concept in which a group of members are bound together by covenant with a governing representative head. The term "federalism" is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and...

 in that whereas the Fathers of Confederation, negotiating the union of the British North American colonies against the backdrop of the American Civil War, wished to ensure a strong central government vis-à-vis relatively weak provinces, appeals to the JCPC in constitutional matters progressively shifted the balance in favour of the provinces. While a few commentators have suggested that Canadian First Nations
First Nations
First Nations is a term that collectively refers to various Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are neither Inuit nor Métis. There are currently over 630 recognised First Nations governments or bands spread across Canada, roughly half of which are in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The...

 retain the right to appeal to the Privy Council because their treaties predate their relationship to Canada, the JCPC has not entertained any such appeal since 1867 and the dominant view is that no such appeal right exists.

Caribbean Community

The nations of the Caribbean Community
Caribbean Community
The Caribbean Community is an organisation of 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies. CARICOM's main purposes are to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members, to ensure that the benefits of integration are equitably shared, and to coordinate foreign policy...

 voted in 2001 to abolish the right of appeal to the Privy Council in favour of a Caribbean Court of Justice
Caribbean Court of Justice
The Caribbean Court of Justice is the judicial institution of the Caribbean Community . Established in 2001, it is based in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago....

 (CCJ). Some debate between member countries and also the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council had repeatedly delayed the court's date of inauguration. As of 2005, Barbados
Barbados
Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

 replaced the process of appeals to Her Majesty in Council with the CCJ, which had then come into operation. The Republic of Guyana
Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

 also enacted local legislation allowing the CCJ to have jurisdiction over their sovereign final court of appeals system. Belize acceded to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the CCJ on 1 June 2010. As it stands, a few other CARICOM states appear to be ready for the abolition of appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the immediate future. The government of Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

 in particular had come close and attempted to abolish appeals to the Judicial Committee without the support of the opposition in Parliament; however, it was ruled by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that the procedure used in Jamaica to bypass the opposition was incorrect and unconstitutional.

Caribbean governments have been coming under increased pressure from their electorates to devise ways to override previous rulings by the JCPC such as: Earl Pratt and Ivan Morgan v The Attorney General for Jamaica (1993) Jeffrey Joseph v The Queen for Barbados (2002), and Charles Matthews v The State of Trinidad & Tobago (2004), all of which are Privy Council judgements concerning the death penalty in the Caribbean region.

The current President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the supreme court in all matters under English law, Northern Ireland law and Scottish civil law. It is the court of last resort and highest appellate court in the United Kingdom; however the High Court of Justiciary remains the supreme court for criminal...

, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, has voiced displeasure of Caribbean
Anglophone Caribbean
The term Commonwealth Caribbean is used to refer to the independent English-speaking countries of the Caribbean region. Upon a country's full independence from the United Kingdom, Anglophone Caribbean or Commonwealth Caribbean traditionally becomes the preferred sub-regional term as a replacement...

 and other Commonwealth countries
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 continuing to rely on the British JCPC. During an interview Lord Phillips was quoted by the Financial Times
Financial Times
The Financial Times is an international business newspaper. It is a morning daily newspaper published in London and printed in 24 cities around the world. Its primary rival is the Wall Street Journal, published in New York City....

as saying: "'in an ideal world' Commonwealth countries — including those in the Caribbean — would stop using the Privy Council and set up their own final courts of appeal instead."

Grenada

Grenadian
Grenada
Grenada is an island country and Commonwealth Realm consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea...

 appeals to the Privy Council were temporarily abolished from 1979 until 1991, as a result of the Grenadian Revolution, which brought Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 Maurice Bishop
Maurice Bishop
Maurice Rupert Bishop was a Grenadian politician and revolutionary who seized power in a coup in 1979 from Eric Gairy and served as Prime Minister of the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada until 1983, when he was overthrown in another coup by Bernard Coard, a member of his own...

 to power. People's Law 84 was enacted to this effect. The People's Laws of Grenada were gradually ruled invalid as unconstitutional.

Guyana

Guyana
Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

 retained the right of appeal to the Privy Council until the government of Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 Forbes Burnham
Forbes Burnham
Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham was the leader of Guyana from 1964 until his death, first as Premier from 1964 to 1966, then as the Prime Minister from 1966 to 1980 and finally as President from 1980 to 1985....

 passed the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (Termination of Appeals) Act 1970.

Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 abolished appeals to the Privy Council in 1972, following the Dominion of Ceylon
Dominion of Ceylon
The Dominion of Ceylon, known today as Sri Lanka, was a dominion, in the British Empire between 1948 and 1972. In 1948, British Ceylon was granted independence as the Dominion of Ceylon. In 1972, the Dominion of Ceylon became a republic within the Commonwealth, and its name was changed to Sri Lanka...

 becoming the Republic of Sri Lanka
Names of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is an island country that has been known by many names. The existence of the island has been known to the Indic, Chinese, Arabic, and Western civilisations for many millennia and the various names ascribed to the island over time reflect this....

. Previously, the Privy Council had ruled in Ibralebbe v The Queen [1964] AC 900 that it remained the highest court of appeal in Ceylon notwithstanding the country's independence as a Dominion in 1948.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

's court system was changed after the 1997 handover to the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

. The Court of Final Appeal now serves as the highest judicial authority, although, as confirmed by the Court of Appeal
Court of Appeal (Hong Kong)
The Court of Appeal deals with appeals on all civil and criminal cases from the Court of First Instance and the District Courts of Hong Kong. It is one of two courts that makes up the High Court of Hong Kong....

 in Thapa Indra Bahadur v The Secretary for Security [2000] 2 HKLRD 113, decisions of the Privy Council before 1 July 1997 on appeals from Hong Kong "continue to be binding since the resumption of sovereignty on all courts of Hong Kong, save for the Court of Final Appeal", i.e. these decisions remain part of the common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 of the Hong Kong SAR unless and until overturned by the Court of Final Appeal.

It should be noted that, on the other hand, decisions of the Privy Council before 1 July 1997 on non-Hong Kong appeals, as well as decisions of British courts after this date, are not strictly binding on Hong Kong courts at all, for all that such decisions are persuasive and will be treated with great respect, depending on all relevant circumstances. As was aptly summarised in the case of A Solicitor v The Law Society of Hong Kong (2008) 11 HKCFAR 117 by Lord Millet, sitting as a non-permanent judge on the Court of Final Appeal,
Quite different from other common law jurisdictions, the power of final interpretation of the Basic Law, the constitutional instrument of the Region, is vested, pursuant to Article 158 of the Law, not in the Court of Final Appeal but in the Standing Committee of the NPC
Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress is a committee of about 150 members of the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China , which is convened between plenary sessions of the NPC. It has the constitutional authority to modify legislation within limits set by...

, which, unlike the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, is a political body rather than a court of last resort.

India

India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 retained the right of appeal from the Federal Court of India
Federal Court of India
The Federal Court of India was a judicial body, established in India in 1937 under the provisions of the Government of India Act 1935, with original, appellate and advisory jurisdiction. It functioned until 1950, when the Supreme Court of India was established. The seat of the Federal Court was at...

 to the Privy Council after the establishment of the Dominion of India
Dominion of India
The Dominion of India, also known as the Union of India or the Indian Union , was a predecessor to modern-day India and an independent state that existed between 15 August 1947 and 26 January 1950...

. Following the replacement of the Federal Court with the Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial forum and final court of appeal as established by Part V, Chapter IV of the Constitution of India...

 in January 1950, the Abolition of Privy Council Jurisdiction Act 1949 came into effect, ending the right of appeal to the Privy Council.

Irish Free State

The right of appeal to the Privy Council was provided for in the Constitution of the Irish Free State
Constitution of the Irish Free State
The Constitution of the Irish Free State was the first constitution of the independent Irish state. It was enacted with the adoption of the Constitution of the Irish Free State Act 1922, of which it formed a part...

 until its abolition in 1933 by an Act of the Oireachtas
Oireachtas
The Oireachtas , sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the "national parliament" or legislature of Ireland. The Oireachtas consists of:*The President of Ireland*The two Houses of the Oireachtas :**Dáil Éireann...

.

In Moore v Attorney-General of the Irish Free State [1935] AC 484 (PC) the right of the Oireachtas to abolish appeals to the Privy Council was challenged as a violation of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty
Anglo-Irish Treaty
The Anglo-Irish Treaty , officially called the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, was a treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and representatives of the secessionist Irish Republic that concluded the Irish War of...

. The then Attorney General for England and Wales
Attorney General for England and Wales
Her Majesty's Attorney General for England and Wales, usually known simply as the Attorney General, is one of the Law Officers of the Crown. Along with the subordinate Solicitor General for England and Wales, the Attorney General serves as the chief legal adviser of the Crown and its government in...

 (Sir Thomas Inskip) is reported to have warned the then Attorney-General of the Irish Free State (Conor Maguire
Conor Maguire
Conor Alexander Maguire was an Irish politician, lawyer and judge. He was a founding member of the Legal and Economic Society in UCD in 1911; now known as the University College Dublin Law Society...

) that Ireland had no right to abolish appeals to the Privy Council. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council itself ruled that the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

 Government had that right under the Statute of Westminster 1931
Statute of Westminster 1931
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Passed on 11 December 1931, the Act established legislative equality for the self-governing dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom...

(Imp.).

Malaysia

Malaysia abolished appeals to the Privy Council in criminal and constitutional matters in 1978, and in civil matters in 1985.

New Zealand

Proposals to abolish appeals to the Privy Council in New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 date back to the early 1980s. It was not until October 2003 that New Zealand law was changed to abolish appeals to the Privy Council in respect of all cases heard by the Court of Appeal of New Zealand after the end of 2003, in favour of a Supreme Court of New Zealand
Supreme Court of New Zealand
The Supreme Court of New Zealand is the highest court and the court of last resort in New Zealand, having formally come into existence on 1 January 2004. The court sat for the first time on 1 July 2004. It replaced the right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, based in London...

. In 2008, National leader John Key
John Key
John Phillip Key is the 38th Prime Minister of New Zealand, in office since 2008. He has led the New Zealand National Party since 2006....

 ruled out any abolition of the Supreme Court and return to the Privy Council.

Pakistan

The Dominion of Pakistan
Dominion of Pakistan
The Dominion of Pakistan was an independent federal Commonwealth realm in South Asia that was established in 1947 on the partition of British India into two sovereign dominions . The Dominion of Pakistan, which included modern-day Pakistan and Bangladesh, was intended to be a homeland for the...

 retained the right of appeal to the Privy Council from the Federal Court of Pakistan until the Privy Council (Termination of Jurisdiction) Act 1950 was passed. The Federal Court of Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 remained the highest court until 1956, when the Supreme Court of Pakistan
Supreme Court of Pakistan
The Supreme Court is the apex court in Pakistan's judicial hierarchy, the final arbiter of legal and constitutional disputes. The Supreme Court has a permanent seat in Islamabad. It has number of Branch Registries where cases are heard. It has a number of de jure powers which are outlined in the...

 was established.

Rhodesia

Despite the Rhodesian Constitution of 1965 coming into effect as a result of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence, appeals continued to be accepted by the Privy Council as late as 1969.

Singapore

Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 abolished Privy Council appeals in all cases save those involving the death penalty, or in civil cases where the parties had agreed to such a right of appeal, in 1989. The abolition followed a decision of the Privy Council the previous year that criticised the "grievous injustice" suffered by the opposition politician J. B. Jeyaretnam
Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam
Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam was a politician and lawyer from Singapore. He was the leader of the Workers' Party from 1971 to 2001...

 at the hands of the Government of Singapore. The remaining rights of appeal were abolished in 1994.

South Africa

South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 abolished the right of appeal to the Privy Council from the Appellate Division of the then Supreme Court of South Africa in 1950.

See also


External links

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