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The Supreme Court Annual Report and Accounts 2015–2016

annual-report-2015-16

19 The

19 The UKSC Jurisdiction and casework The UKSC is the UK’s highest court of appeal. It hears appeals on arguable points of law of general public importance, concentrating on cases of the greatest significance. The UKSC is the final court of appeal for all United Kingdom civil cases, and criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland and (in certain cases) Scotland. The Court plays an important role in the development of United Kingdom law. The impact of UKSC decisions extends far beyond the parties involved in any given case, helping to shape our society. Its judgments directly affect everyday lives. The UKSC hears appeals from the following courts in each jurisdiction: England and Wales • The Court of Appeal, Civil Division • The Court of Appeal, Criminal Division • (in some limited cases) the High Court ScotlandThe Court of Session • The High Court of Justiciary (in certain cases) Northern IrelandThe Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland • (in some limited cases) the High Court During 2015, the statutory provisions which allow for cases to ‘leapfrog’ to the Supreme Court were extended and some measures have already been brought into force. The devolution jurisdiction of the JCPC transferred to the UKSC on its establishment. The UKSC can be asked to give judgments on questions which relate to whether the acts of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are within the powers given to them by the UK Parliament. These administrations were established by the Scotland Act 1998, the Government of Wales Act 2006 and the Northern Ireland Act 1998. The UKSC can also be asked to scrutinise Bills of the Scottish Parliament (under section 33 of the Scotland Act 1998), Bills of the Northern Ireland Assembly (under section 11 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998) and Bills of the National Assembly for Wales under section 112 of the Government of Wales Act 2006. Devolution cases can reach the UKSC in four ways: • A question is referred by a court • An appeal is made against a judgment by certain courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland • A devolution issue is referred by certain appellate courts • A devolution issue is directly referred whether or not the issue is the subject of litigation. The UKSC has to consider and rule on the compatibility of United Kingdom legislation with the law of the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights. In these and some other respects it represents a constitutional court. Supreme Court Annual Report 2015–2016

20 Section two Performance Report: Jurisdiction and casework Rules and Practice Directions The underlying procedure of the UKSC is in many respects the same as that of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, but section 45 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 imposes upon the President a specific duty in relation to the rule-making power bestowed upon him under section 45(3). The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 requires that the Rules are ‘simple and simply expressed’ and that the Court is ‘accessible, fair and efficient’ and many of the rigid and detailed requirements in the House of Lords Practice Directions have been dispensed with. The Court must interpret and apply the Rules with a view to securing that the Court is ‘accessible, fair and efficient and that unnecessary disputes over procedural matters are discouraged’. Rule 9(6) provides that, if any procedural question is not dealt with by the Rules, the Court or the Registrar ‘may adopt any procedure that is consistent with the overriding objective, the Act and these Rules’. These words are very important in underpinning the approach adopted by the Court. The Rules are kept under review and feedback from users is welcomed – both formally through our User Group, or informally in other ways. The Rules and Practice Directions have generally worked well during the Court’s first years of operation: a number of revisions have been made to the Practice Directions to reflect suggestions made by practitioners and to effect a number of improvements. The procedure for appealing: permission to appeal (PTA) applications Following recent legislative enactments, cases from Scotland are now subject to the same requirement as in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that appellants gain permission to appeal before the UKSC will hear an appeal. The court appealed from may grant permission, but where that court refuses permission, the appellant can then apply to the UKSC which has to rule on whether the permission should be granted. Such applications are generally decided on paper by a panel of three Justices, without an oral hearing. There has been one oral permission hearing during the year. Once the required papers have been filed, an application for permission will normally be determined within eight sitting weeks. In urgent cases, a request for expedition may be made and an expedited application can be determined within 14 days or even less (see Table 2). Applications by third parties to intervene in appeals may also be made, usually after permission to appeal has been granted. Over the course of the year, 33 such applications have been made and all have been granted. TABLE 1 – PTAs (1 April 2015 – 31 March 2016) Applications Received 230 Applications Granted 84 Applications Refused 126 Applications with other result 5 Supreme Court Annual Report 2015–2016

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