Wednesday , 20 September 2017
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The history of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

This animated film charts the history of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which today serves as the highest court of appeal for a number of Commonwealth countries, as well as the United Kingdom’s overseas territories, crown dependencies, and military sovereign base areas. The JCPC hears around 40 appeals each year, chiefly in the courthouse it shares with the UK Supreme Court on Parliament Square, London.

As this film explains, the origins of the JCPC stretch back to the Curia Regis, or Royal Court, of Norman times. As Parliament developed out of this council, the majority of petitions against decisions of the Sovereign’s courts outside Great Britain and Northern Ireland were referred to the High Court of Parliament, which became the chief appellate tribunal. Over time, this ‘appellate jurisdiction’ transferred to a special committee of the Sovereign’s closest advisers (Privy Counsellors). The present constitution of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is based on the Judicial Committee Act 1833.

Under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876, the Law Lords (now UK Supreme Court Justices) became the permanent judges of the court. Today, all Privy Counsellors who hold or have held high judicial office in the United Kingdom, or have been judges of superior courts of certain Commonwealth countries, are eligible to sit if they are under 75 years of age.

With the growth of the British empire, the JCPC’s worked peaked in the early 1900s. Over the years the JCPC has been asked for final rulings and interpretations of many different kinds of law, from Roman Dutch law in appeals from South Africa, to pre-revolutionary French law from Quebec, and Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu law from India.

Explore the work of the JCPC in more detail, and read and watch recent decisions and proceedings, at www.jcpc.uk