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Courts of Northern Ireland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The courts of Northern Ireland are the civil and criminal courts responsible for the administration of justice in Northern Ireland: they are constituted and governed by the law of Northern Ireland.

Prior to the partition of Ireland, Northern Ireland was part of the courts system of Ireland. After partition, Northern Ireland's courts became separate from the court system of the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland continues to have a separate legal system to the rest of the United Kingdom. There are exceptions to that rule, such as in immigration and military law, for which there is a unified judicial system for the whole United Kingdom.

To overcome problems resulting from the intimidation of jurors and witnesses, the right to a jury trial in Northern Ireland was suspended for certain terrorist offences in 1972, and the so-called "Diplock courts" were introduced to try people charged with paramilitary activities. Diplock courts are common in Northern Ireland for crimes connected to terrorism.[1]

Administration of the courts is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service.

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Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom was created by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. It took its duties up on 1 October 2009. It is the final court of appeal for cases originating in all parts of the United Kingdom, other than Scottish criminal cases.

The Supreme Court has taken over the appellate jurisdiction formerly vested in the House of Lords.

Court of Judicature

Supreme Court (Northern Ireland) Act 1942
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to provide for the amendment of enactments relating to the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland to correspond with alterations in county court jurisdiction made by the Parliament of Northern Ireland, and to make further provision as respects rules and orders relating to the said Supreme Court.
Citation6 & 7 Geo. 6. c. 2
Royal assent17 December 1942
Other legislation
Repealed byJudicature (Northern Ireland) Act 1978
Status: Repealed
Judicature (Northern Ireland) Act 1978
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to make provision with respect to the constitution, jurisdiction and proceedings of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland; to establish as part of that Court a Crown Court to try indictments and exercise other jurisdiction in Northern Ireland in relation to criminal cases and to abolish courts of assize there and deal with their jurisdiction; to make, as respects Northern Ireland, provision for the administration of courts; to provide for certain rules of law in judicial matters in Northern Ireland and to amend the law regarding county courts, magistrates' courts and justices of the peace in Northern Ireland and otherwise with respect to the administration of justice there.
Citation1978 c. 23
Royal assent30 June 1978
Other legislation
  • Judges' Lodgings (Ireland) Act 1801
  • Evidence (Ireland) Act 1815
  • Recognizances (Ireland) Act 1817
  • Transfer of Stock (Ireland) Act 1820
  • Public Notaries (Ireland) Act 1821
  • Common Law Procedure (Ireland) Act 1821
  • Clerk of Assize (Ireland) Act 1821
  • Court of Chancery (Ireland) Act 1823
  • Law Costs (Ireland) Act 1823
  • Assizes (Ireland) Act 1825
  • Clerk of the Crown (Ireland) Act 1832
  • Chancery (Ireland) Act 1834
  • Chancery (Ireland) Act 1835
  • Assizes (Ireland) Act 1835
  • Court of Chancery (Ireland) Act 1836
  • Debtors (Ireland) Act 1840
  • Common Law Offices (Ireland) Act 1844
  • Chancery Taxing Master (Ireland) Act 1845
  • Taxing Masters (Ireland) Act 1848
  • Attachment of Goods (Ireland) Act 1850
  • Common Law Procedure Amendment Act (Ireland) 1853
  • Chancery Receivers (Ireland) Act 1856
  • Chancery Appeal Court (Ireland) Act 1856
  • Common Law Procedure Amendment Act (Ireland) 1856
  • Bills of Exchange (Ireland) Act 1864
  • Chancery (Ireland) Act 1867
  • Court of Admiralty (Ireland) Act 1867
  • Chancery and Common Law Offices (Ireland) Act 1867
  • Commissioners for Oaths (Ireland) Act 1872
  • Court of Admiralty (Ireland) Amendment Act 1876
  • County Officers and Courts (Ireland) Act 1877
  • Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877
  • Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Act 1882
  • Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Act 1887
  • Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Amendment Act 1888
  • County Court Appeals (Ireland) Act 1889
  • Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Act 1897
  • Quarter Sessions Jurors (Ireland) Act 1897
  • Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) (No. 2) Act 1897
  • Lunacy (Ireland) Act 1901
  • Law and Procedure (Emergency Provisions) (Ireland) Act 1916
  • Supreme Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland Act 1926
  • Supreme Court (Northern Ireland) Act 1942
Text of statute as originally enacted
Text of the Judicature (Northern Ireland) Act 1978 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from

The Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland is constituted by the Judicature (Northern Ireland) Act 1978 (c. 23). It is a collective body of the superior courts of Northern Ireland, and consists of the following courts:[2]

  • The Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland (Court of Appeal, formally "His Majesty’s Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland"[3])
  • The High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland (High Court, formally "His Majesty's High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland"[3])
  • The Crown Court

Until 1 October 2009, the name of the court was the Supreme Court of Judicature: this was changed to remove the word 'Supreme'[4] on 1 October 2009 when the relevant provisions of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 came into force establishing the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal is the highest court in Northern Ireland. Appeal from the Court of Appeal lies to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The Court of Appeal hears appeals from the Crown Court, High Court, county courts, courts of summary jurisdiction and tribunals.

A Court of Criminal Appeal existed from 1930 to 1978, when its functions were merged into the new general court of appeal.

Case law in the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal has established the principle that appeals "should be whole, rather than fragmented", i.e. not referred from the lower court issue-by-issue. In First4Skills Ltd v Department for Employment and Learning (2011), Mr Justice McCloskey referred to the decisions in Cullen v Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (unreported, 1998) and Re Lemon's Application (unreported,1995) as establishing this principle, ruling it "incumbent on a court of first instance" to determine all the issues before it.[5]

High Court

The Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast

The High Court of Northern Ireland is split into three divisions: King's Bench Division, Family Division and Chancery Division. The High Court is located in the Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast.[6] There is a specialized commercial court track in the King's Bench Division, first established in 1992, known as the Commercial List.[7][8]

Crown Court

The Crown Court hears more serious criminal cases. These are indictable offences and "either way" offences which are committed for trial in the Crown Court rather than the magistrates' courts.

County courts

Downpatrick Courthouse, August 2009

The county courts are the main civil courts. While higher-value cases are heard in the High Court, the county courts hear a wide range of civil actions, consumer claims, and appeals from magistrates' courts. The county courts are called family care centres when hearing proceedings brought under the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 and appeals from the family proceedings courts. There were seven county court divisions in Northern Ireland until 2016, when a unified model was adopted.[9]

Subordinate courts

Below the High Court are several classes of courts. Magistrates' courts (including youth courts, family proceedings courts and domestic proceedings courts) hear less-serious criminal cases and conduct preliminary hearings in more serious criminal cases. They are divided into 21 petty sessions districts. The Crown Court hears all serious criminal cases which are committed to trial. When sitting as family proceedings courts the magistrates' courts hear proceedings brought under the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.

Additionally, there is the Enforcement of Judgments Office, and coroners' courts, which investigate the circumstances of sudden, violent or unnatural deaths.

See also


  1. ^ "Two jailed for life for killing policeman Stephen Carroll". ITV News. 30 March 2012. They were tried in a 'diplock court' by a judge with no jury; common in Northern Ireland for crimes connected to terrorism.
  2. ^ Section 1, Judicature (Northern Ireland) Act 1978
  3. ^ a b Interpretation Act 1978 sch. 1
  4. ^ Subsection 59(2) of The Constitutional Reform Act 2005
  5. ^ McCloskey J in High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland, First4Skills Ltd v Department for Employment and Learning, [2011] NIQB 59, paragraph 13, delivered 30 June 2011, accessed 13 December 2023
  6. ^ "The Royal Courts of Justice | Department of Justice". November 2017.
  7. ^ "Commerical Lists | Department of Justice". Justice. 29 November 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2024.
  8. ^ "Commercial Lists Documents | Department of Justice". Justice. 28 December 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2024.
  9. ^ "Single Jurisdiction in Northern Ireland". Law Society of Northern Ireland. 31 October 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2020.

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 5 May 2024, at 21:26
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