Judicial Committee of the Privy CouncilThe Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is one of the highest courts in the United Kingdom. It is also the highest court of appeal (or court of last resort) for several independent British Commonwealth countries, the UK overseas territories and the British crown dependencies. It is simply referred to simply to the Privy Council, as appeals are in fact made to Her Majesty in Council who then refers the case to the Judicial Committee for "advice". In Commonwealth republics appeal is direct to the Judicial Committee instead. Formerly the Judicial Committee gave a single piece of advice, but since the 1960s dissenting opinions have been allowed.
The judicial system of the United Kingdom 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 House of Lords. In Scottish criminal cases the highest court is the High Court of Justiciary.
The Judicial Committee has the power to hear cases involving:
- Acts as highest court of appeal for certain Commonwealth countries, namely New Zealand, several Caribbean countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago), Kiribati and Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean and Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
- Acts as highest court of appeal for UK Overseas Territories, namely Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, St. Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the British sovereign bases in Cyprus.
- Acts as highest court of appeal for the British crown dependencies, namely the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
- Devolution issues arising under the Scotland Act 1998, the Government of Wales Act 1998, or the Northern Ireland Act 1998, i.e. disputes regarding the validity of acts of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly.
- Appeals from disciplinary committees of various professional regulatory bodies in the UK.
- Certain cases involving the Church of England on appeal from the Ecclesiastical courts.
- Disputes concerning whether someone is eligible to be elected to the British House of Commons
- Appeals from Prize Courts
- Appeals in certain admiralty cases.
Formerly appeals to the Privy Council were made from Australia; however this right of appeal was effectively abolished from the Commonwealth Courts by the Privy Council (Limitation of Appeals) Act 1968 and the Privy Council (Appeals from the High Court) Act 1975, and from the State courts by the Australia Act 1986. The Australian constitution still has a provision restricting appeal to the Privy Council on certain matters without the leave of the High Court of Australia (the Privy Council could hear appeals on other subjects without the High Court's permission), so theoretically appeal is still possible on those subjects. However, the High Court has stated that it will not give such permission, so the possibility is purely theoretical.
In 2003 the Parliament of New Zealand enacted legislation to abandon appeals to the Privy Council in favour of establishing the new Supreme Court of New Zealand. This court is expected to be operational by mid-2004.