This section provides you with an overview of the courts in Northern Ireland.
The UK has three jurisdictions: England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Supreme Court
In 2009, the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom took over the jurisdiction of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. It also took over the devolved functions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (the highest court of appeal in several independent Commonwealth countries, UK overseas territories and British crown dependencies).
The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom for both criminal and civil cases, although Scottish criminal cases do not have the right of appeal to The Supreme Court. Such cases will usually be granted permission to refer an appeal to the Supreme Court only if it involves points of law of public importance.
The Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal hears criminal appeals from the Crown Court and civil appeals from the High Court
The High Court
The High Court deals with civil cases, hears appeals in criminal cases, and also has the power to review the actions of individuals or organisations to make sure they have acted legally and justly. The High Court usually deals with cases if the value of the claim is over £30.000. In some circumstances, a case over £30,000 can be sent from the High Court to the county court and, similarly, a case under the value of £30,000 may be transferred from the county court to the High Court.
The High Court has three divisions, as follows:
The Crown Court
The crown court deals with the following types of cases:
Imprisonment and fines in the crown court are more severe than in the magistrates' court.
The County Court
The County Court deal with civil cases and are heard by a judge or district judge. The county court usually deals with cases that are under £30,000 in value (or £45,000 in equity matters). Cases with higher value are heard in the High Court – see above. All claims arising from regulated credit agreements must be started in the county court, whatever their value.
Examples of cases dealt with by the County Court:
Small Claims Cases
Small claims cases are also heard in the County Court. In general, a small claim involves a claim with a value of not more than £3,000.
The Magistrates’ Court
Magistrates’ courts deal with criminal and some civil cases. Cases are heard by a district judge (magistrates' court).
Investigate the circumstances of sudden, violent or unnatural deaths.
Further details and a diagram of the court structure in Northern Ireland can be found on the website of the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service.
Administration of the Courts
Responsibility for administration of the courts in Northern Ireland jurisdiction lies with the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service.
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