The UK legal system is hierarchical in nature, with various levels of courts and legal professionals operating within a structured system. Understanding the hierarchy of the UK legal system is important for anyone seeking to practice law in the UK, whether as a solicitor, barrister, or judge. In this article, we will discuss the hierarchy of the UK legal system, from the lowest to the highest levels.
First, at the bottom of the hierarchy are the Magistrates’ Courts, which are also known as the lower courts. These courts deal with the majority of criminal cases in the UK, as well as some civil cases. Magistrates’ Courts are presided over by lay magistrates, who are appointed by a local advisory committee and receive training in the law and procedure.
Above the Magistrates’ Courts are the County Courts, which are also known as the middle courts. These courts deal with a wide range of civil cases, such as personal injury claims, contract disputes, and family law matters. County Courts are presided over by District Judges, who are legally qualified and have the authority to make legally binding decisions.
The High Court is the next level of the hierarchy. This court is divided into three divisions: the Queen’s Bench Division, the Chancery Division, and the Family Division. The Queen’s Bench Division deals with a wide range of civil cases, including contract disputes, personal injury claims, and defamation cases. The Chancery Division deals with disputes relating to property, trusts, and commercial matters, while the Family Division deals with cases relating to family law, such as divorce and child custody.
The High Court also has the authority to hear criminal cases, particularly those that are particularly serious or complex. The High Court is presided over by High Court Judges, who are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor.
Above the High Court is the Court of Appeal. This court has two divisions: the Civil Division and the Criminal Division. The Civil Division hears appeals from the High Court and County Courts, while the Criminal Division hears appeals from the Crown Court, which is the court that deals with the most serious criminal cases in the UK. The Court of Appeal is presided over by Lord Justices of Appeal, who are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor.
The highest court in the UK is the Supreme Court, which was established in 2009 to replace the House of Lords as the final court of appeal in the UK. The Supreme Court hears appeals from the Court of Appeal and the High Court, as well as from other courts in the UK and overseas. The Supreme Court is presided over by Justices, who are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of a selection commission.
Alongside the court hierarchy, there is also a hierarchy of legal professionals in the UK. At the bottom of the hierarchy are paralegals and legal executives, who are typically responsible for administrative tasks such as document preparation and client communication.
Above paralegals and legal executives are solicitors, who are legally qualified professionals who provide legal advice and representation to clients. Solicitors must hold a law degree and complete vocational training, including a two-year training contract with a law firm.
Above solicitors are barristers, who are specialist advocates who represent clients in court. Barristers must hold a law degree and complete vocational training, including a one-year pupillage with a barristers’ chambers.
At the top of the legal profession are judges, who preside over courts and make legal decisions. Judges may be appointed from either the solicitor or barrister professions, but they must have significant legal experience and be appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of a selection commission.
In conclusion, understanding the hierarchy of the UK legal system and the roles of legal professionals within that system is important for anyone seeking to practice