Legal Dictionary

High Court of Justice

Definition of High Court of Justice

Further reading

The High Court of Justice (usually known simply as the High Court) is, together with the Crown Court and the Court of Appeal, one of the Senior Courts of England and Wales. It is also known as the High Court of England and Wales and abbreviated by EWHC.

The High Court deals at first instance with all high value and high importance cases, and also has a supervisory jurisdiction over all subordinate courts and many (but not all) tribunals.

The High Court is based at the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand, in central London. It has 'District Registries' all across England and Wales and virtually all proceedings in the High Court may be issued and heard at a district registry. It is headed by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

The High Court has three main divisions: the Queen's Bench Division, the Chancery Division and the Family Division. The Senior Courts Costs Office, which deals with the quantification of legal costs pursuant to costs orders made by the courts, falls outside these divisions.

Most proceedings in the High Court are held before a single judge, but certain kinds of proceedings, especially in the Queen's Bench Division, are assigned to a Divisional Court (i.e., a bench of two or more judges). Exceptionally the Court may sit with a jury, but in practice normally only in defamation cases or cases against the police. Litigants are normally represented by counsel, but may be heard by lawyers with a right of audience, or in person.

Under the doctrine of precedent, the High Court is bound by its own previous decisions. Appeal from the High Court in civil matters normally lies to the Court of Appeal and thence to the Supreme Court; in some cases a "leapfrog" appeal may be made directly to the Supreme Court. In criminal matters appeals from the Queen's Bench Divisional Court are made directly to the Supreme Court.


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