Supreme court

The supreme court is the final court of appeal in the uk for civil cases, and for criminal cases from england, wales and northern ireland.


The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases, and for criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It hears cases of the greatest public or constitutional importance affecting the whole population.

In October 2009, the Supreme Court replaced the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords as the highest court in the United Kingdom. The Supreme Court also sees itself as playing an important role in the development of UK law.


The Supreme Court was established by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. The 2005 Act also prescribes the composition of the Court which comprises 12 judges. The selection process and appointment by the Queen is also set out in the Act.


In the past there had been criticism that the work of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords blurred the separation between the Second Chamber of Parliament (“the House of Lords”) and senior judges. The Supreme Court was established to better achieve a complete separation and at the same time emphasising the independence of the Law Lords and increasing the transparency between Parliament and the courts. Since its establishment the supreme court has had to deal with some controversial cases and few can argue that their work is clearly seen to be in the public domain and not always on a par with the views and work of government.

The 12 Justices of the Supreme Court now consider themselves separate from both Government (“the Executive”) and Parliament (“the Legislature”) and are known as Justices of the Supreme Court. The matter of continued judicial independence was reinforced by the modification of the role of the Lord Chancellor under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 along with the creation of greater judicial responsibilities for the Lord Chief Justice and the Heads of the Criminal and Family Divisions.

The Supreme court does not hear evidence for witnesses as would a court of first instance but deals with the matter after hearing arguments and considering documentary evidence.

The website of the Supreme Court now provides Biographies of the Justices

The Court hears appeals on arguable points of law of the greatest public importance, for the whole of the United Kingdom in civil cases, and for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in criminal cases.

Additionally, it hears cases on devolution matters under the Scotland Act 1998, the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 2006. This jurisdiction was transferred to the Supreme Court from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. A good example of a matter coming to the Supreme Court under the provisions of the Scotland Act 1998 is the case of Scotch Whisky Association and others (Appellants) v The Lord Advocate and another (Respondents) (Scotland) where the Scottish Parliament could not resolve the dispute themselves because of potential conflict with European law. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favour of Scotland being able to set a minimum price for alcohol, rejecting a challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association saying that such a measure was proportional and did not breach European law.

The Supreme Court sits in the former Middlesex Guildhall, on the western side of Parliament Square. 

This new location in itself is seen as an important and a significant physical move across Parliament Square and away from the House of Lords.




Constitutional Reform Act 2005 -


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