Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

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The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) is one of the highest courts in the United Kingdom, established by the Judicial Committee Act 1833.[1] It is also the highest court of appeal (or court of last resort) for several independent Commonwealth countries, the UK overseas territories, and the British Crown Dependencies.[2] It is simply referred to as the Privy Council, as appeals are in fact made to the Queen as Her Majesty in Council, who then refers the case to the Judicial Committee for "advice". The panel of judges hearing a particular case (typically five members) is known as "the Board".

In Commonwealth republics, appeals are made directly to the Judicial Committee instead. In the case of Brunei, the appeal is made to the local Sultan, who is advised by the Judicial Committee. Formerly the Judicial Committee gave a single piece of advice, but since the 1960s dissenting opinions have been allowed. In July 2007, the Judicial Committee held that it had power to depart from precedent if it concluded that one of its own previous decisions was incorrect.[3]

On 1 October 2009, the Judicial Committee moved from the Privy Council Chamber in Downing Street to the former Middlesex Guildhall which was refurbished in 2007 both for the JCPC and the newly created Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. In this renovated building, court 3 is used for Privy Council sittings.

The judicial system of the United Kingdom is unusual in having no single highest national court; the Judicial Committee is the highest court of appeal in some cases, while in most others the highest court of appeal is the UK Supreme Court. In Scotland the highest court in criminal cases is the High Court of Justiciary; the UK Supreme Court is the highest court in civil cases and matters arising from Scottish devolution.

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