Documents to download

The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom. It hears appeals from the whole of the United Kingdom in civil cases, and for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in criminal cases. Additionally, the Supreme Court hears cases on devolution matters. Before the Supreme Court was established its functions were performed by the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Supreme Court is provided for by part 3 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 which was brought into force on 1 October 2009, establishing the Supreme Court from that date. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 provides for twelve judges of the Supreme Court, including a President and Deputy President. A recruitment round is currently underway to fill three vacancies, and the announcement of the successful candidates is expected in July 2017. In addition, three further Justices will reach retirement age in 2018. This forthcoming significant turnover has led to increased focus on a perceived lack of diversity among judges of the Supreme Court, as well as debate about the suitability of the current retirement age of 70.

Other recent developments concern the Supreme Court’s future role with regard to EU law and human rights. At present, the Court can ask the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to rule on certain questions regarding European Union law. The Government has proposed that when the UK leaves the EU the Supreme Court should take account of ECJ judgments issued before its withdrawal and should not take account of judgments concerning laws passed after this date. With regard to human rights, if an individual considers that their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights have not been respected by a decision of a UK court they may bring a claim before the European Court of Human Rights. At the 2015 general election, the Conservatives had pledged to “make our own Supreme Court the ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK” but have since said “we will remain signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights for the duration of the next parliament”.


Documents to download

Related posts

  • Current Affairs Digest: Home Affairs (May 2024)

    In recent years, there has been a fall in levels of trust and confidence in policing. This followed a series of high-profile scandals, some of which involved serious offences committed by serving police officers. This briefing explores the role of media coverage in changing public perceptions of policing and also reports on calls by various parties to improve the current levels of confidence.

    Current Affairs Digest: Home Affairs (May 2024)
  • Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill: HL Bill 73 of 2023–24

    The Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill is due to have its second reading in the House of Lords on 13 May 2024. The bill seeks to fulfil the commitment made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on 10 January 2023 to quash the convictions of those convicted as a result of the Horizon scandal. It would extend and apply to England and Wales, and Northern Ireland. Its provisions would come into force at royal assent. During committee stage the bill was extended to Northern Ireland. There have also been calls for it to be extended to Scotland. The bill has received cross-party support but is controversial as the quashing of convictions by Parliament is unprecedented. In addition, concerns about the scope of the bill have been raised. The bill would not include individuals whose convictions were previously upheld by the Court of Appeal.

    Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill: HL Bill 73 of 2023–24
  • Commercial Organisations and Public Authorities Duty (Human Rights and Environment) Bill [HL]: HL Bill 17 of 2023–24

    The Commercial Organisations and Public Authorities Duty (Human Rights and Environment) Bill [HL] is a private member’s bill introduced by Baroness Young of Hornsey (Crossbench). It would place due diligence obligations concerning human rights and the environment on businesses and public sector bodies. The House of Lords is scheduled to debate the bill at second reading on 10 May 2024.

    Commercial Organisations and Public Authorities Duty (Human Rights and Environment) Bill [HL]: HL Bill 17 of 2023–24