From House of Lords to Supreme Court The final appeal hearings and judgments of the House of Lords took place on 30 July 2009. The judicial role of the House of Lords as the highest appeal court in the UK has ended.
From 1 October 2009, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom assumes jurisdiction on points of law for all civil law cases in the UK and all criminal cases in England and Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom was established in law by Part III of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. It will start work on 1 October 2009. It will take over the judicial functions of the House of Lords, which are currently exercised by the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (Law Lords), the 12 professional judges appointed as members of the House of Lords to carry out its judicial business. It will also assume some functions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
The court will be the supreme court (court of last resort, highest appellate court) in all matters under English law, Welsh law (to the extent that the National Assembly for Wales makes laws for Wales that differ from those in England) and Northern Irish law. It will not have authority over criminal cases in Scotland, where the High Court of Justiciary will remain the supreme criminal court. However, it will hear appeals from the civil Court of Session, just as the House of Lords does today. The Supreme Court will also determine devolution issues; that is, cases in which the legal powers of the three devolved governments – the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly Government – or laws made by the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament or National Assembly for Wales are questioned. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council currently has jurisdiction over these cases.
The main role of the UK Supreme Court will be to hear appeals from courts in the United Kingdom's three legal systems: England & Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. The Court's focus will be on cases which raise points of law of general public importance. Like the current Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, appeals from many fields of law are likely to be selected for hearing - including commercial disputes, family matters, judicial review claims against public authorities and issues under the Human Rights Act 1998. The Court will also hear some criminal appeals, but not from Scotland as there will be no right of appeal from the High Court of Justiciary (Scotland's highest criminal court).
The UK Supreme Court will also determine "devolution issues" (as defined by the Scotland Act 1998, the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 2006). These are legal proceedings about the powers of the three devolved administrations – the Northern Ireland Executive and Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh Assembly Government and the National Assembly for Wales. Devolution issues are currently heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and most are about compliance with rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, brought into national law by the Devolution Acts and the Human Rights Act 1998.
The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords will cease to exist on 30 September 2009. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council will, however, continue, located within the new Supreme Court building, as it is the final court of appeal for several States in the Commonwealth of Nations and British overseas territories.