The Courts System.

The Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom. It hears appeals on arguable points of law of public importance for the whole of the UK in civil cases.

The Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal and the High Court constitute the “senior courts” of England and Wales. The Court of Appeal is an appellate court and is divided into a Criminal and Civil division.

High Court.

The High Court hears the more serious and complex civil and family cases at first instance. It is divided into three divisions, Chancery Division, Queens Bench Division and the Family Division.

Queen’s Bench Division.

The Queen’s Bench Division is the largest of the three High Court Divisions. It deals with civil matters such as contractual disputes, personal injury cases, industrial actions, defamation and negligence claims. The Queen’s Bench Division will also preside over Judicial Reviews. The Queen’s Bench Division has specialist courts which are the Commercial, Admiralty, Circuit Commercial Court (formally the Mercantile court), Technology and Construction, Administrative Courts and the Media and Communications List.

Media and Communications List.

A High Court claim must be issued in the Media and Communications List if it is or includes a claim for defamation, or is or includes a claim for misuse of private information; a claim in data protection law; or a claim for harassment by publication.

The Admiralty Court.

This deals with Maritime and shipping disputes such as collision, salvage, carriage of cargo, limitation and mortgage disputes.

Commercial Court.

This deals with all commercial claims, such as commercial claims arising out of transaction of trade and commerce including any claim arising out of:

  • Business documents or contracts,
  • the export or import of goods,
  • the carriage of goods by land, air, sea or pipeline,
  • the exploitation of oil or gas reserves or other natural resources,
  • insurance and reinsurance, banking and financial services,
  • the operation of markets and exchanges,
  • the purchase and sale of commodities, the construction of ships,
    business agency, arbitration.

Both the Commercial and Admiralty Courts have the same Judges and share administration and have a common procedure.

Circuit Commercial Court.

This provides a specialist court service around the country to citizens, businesses and companies involved in commercial transactions and disputes.

Technology and Construction Court.

This deals with the following types of claims:

  • Building or Construction disputes;
  • Engineering disputes;
  • Claims by and against engineers, architects, surveyors and accountants and other specialist advisors based on the services they provide;
  • Claims by and against local authorities relating to their statutory duties concerning the development of land or the construction of buildings;
  • Claims relating to the design, supply in the installation of computers, computer software and related to network systems;
  • Claims relating to the quality of goods either hired or sold and work done, materials supplied or services rendered;
  • Claims between landlord and tenant for breach of a repairing covenant;
  • Claims between neighbours, owners and occupiers of land in trespass, nuisance etc.
  • Claims relating to the environment;
  • Claims arising out of fires;
  • Claims involving taking of accounts where these are complicated and;
  • Challenges to the decisions of arbitrators in construction and engineering disputes including applications for permission to appeal and the appeals.

The Chancery Court deals with insolvency, business trade and industry disputes, enforcement of mortgages, intellectual property matters, copyright and patents, disputes relating to trusts property, contentious probate actions and taxation matters.

This Division has four specialist courts:

Insolvency List.

This court deals with petitions to bankrupt individuals living in London where a creditor has made the petition and is owed £50,000 or more.

It also deals with:

  • those brought by creditors where the debtor has no fixed abode
  • applications by undischarged bankrupts for permission to act as a company director
  • applications to set aside statutory demands where the debt is £50,000 or more

Companies List.

This list deals with cases relating to the insolvency of companies, including:

  • petitions to wind up a company
  • applications to unfreeze bank accounts or challenge a winding up petition
  • applications to restore a company to the register after it has been struck off

Intellectual Property Enterprise Court.

This list deals with matters relating to intellectual property disputes, including:

  • registered designs
  • patents
  • registered trade marks
  • copyrights
  • other intellectual property rights

If the amount of damages sought is under £500,000 then the case can also be heard by the Patents Court or the Chancery Division. These 2 courts will hear cases where the amount sought is over £500,000, unless all parties agree that this court can hear it.

Patents Court.

This list deals with cases relating to intellectual property disputes about:

  • patents
  • registered designs
  • plant varieties

If the amount of damages sought is under £500,000 then the case can also be heard by the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court. If the amount sought is over £500,000 then this court will deal with the case unless all the parties to the case have agreed that the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court can hear it.

Family Division of the High Court.

This court hears cases where a child who is the subject of legal proceedings must be protected and this protection is not possible under the Children Act 1989.
It deals with cases of international child abduction if the abduction falls under either:

  • the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
  • Brussels II Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003

It hears cases about forced marriage, female genital mutilation and applications for financial relief where a divorce has taken place outside England and Wales.

It will hear appeals from certain decisions made by the Family Court.

These cases are managed and heard by specialist Judges in London and at centres in England and Wales.

County Court.

The County Court deals with various types of civil cases such as businesses trying to recover debts, personal injury claims, landlords trying to recover possessions of properties or tenants bringing claims against their landlords. The County Court deals with contract and tort, recovery of land. It can deal with bankruptcy and insolvency matters, cases as to Wills and trusts were the value of the estate does not exceed £30,000 and even defamation claims where the parties agree. In the County Court cases are heard by either a Circuit Judge or District Judges who are full time judges.


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