The Judicial Committee of The Privy Council (JCPC) is the court of final appeal for the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, and therefore very relevant to the work we do. To learn more about its history and how it works, we have spoken to Piers Plumptre, Associate at Gibson Dunn who has acted as JCPC agent on numerous cases with Harneys.
What is the history of the JCPC?
The Privy Council’s jurisdiction developed from the King’s Council, or Curia Regis, which had in turn originated at the Norman conquest and was intended to administer justice over Crown subjects. The growth of the British Empire increased the number of appeals submitted and thus the Privy Council Committees were formed. The Judicial Committee, as distinct from the Privy Council, was created under the Judicial Committee Act 1833 with jurisdiction as the final court of appeal over colonial, ecclesiastical and certain other appeals. All Privy Counsellors who hold or have held high judicial office in the UK or have been judges of superior courts in certain Commonwealth countries under 75 years of age are eligible to sit on the JCPC. When court is in session, the JCPC displays the flag of the jurisdiction from where the appeal comes, as well as placing silver ink stands on the bench, which are never used when the court is constituted as the Supreme Court.
What jurisdictions does the JCPC cover?
The JCPC hears final appeals from the Crown dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey, and Isle of Man), certain Commonwealth countries which have retained the jurisdiction (including Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Tuvalu), the United Kingdom overseas territories (including the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, and Bermuda) and certain domestic business in the United Kingdom. The JCPC has jurisdiction domestically in the UK to hear specific appeals, for example, from the Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the Arches Court of Canterbury, the Chancery Court of York in non-doctrinal faculty causes, the Prize Courts, the Court of Admiralty of the Cinque Ports, and the High Court of Chivalry. In total, there are 27 jurisdictions which use the JCPC as their final court of appeal. Because the JCPC is empowered to hear every kind of case (international, constitutional, civil and criminal), over the years, rulings have been made in different kinds of law from many countries.
Where are the hearings heard?
The JCPC is situated in The Supreme Court building on Parliament Square, Westminster, London, opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.
What is the makeup of the bench?
There are currently 11 justices who make-up the bench of the JCPC. The President of the Supreme Court is Lord Neuberger and the deputy president is Lady Hale. The other justices are Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Sumption, Lord Reed, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hughes and Lord Hodge. On 2 October 2017 Baroness Hale of Richmond will succeed Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury as President of the Supreme Court, alongside three additional appointments of Lady Justice Black, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Lord Justice Briggs who will all join the Supreme Court as Justices. For each appeal, the panel of judges is known as “the Board”. After considering the appeal, the Board renders an “Opinion” (i.e., its judgment) to Her Majesty in Council and the Opinion is then accepted as judgment. For Commonwealth and Overseas Territories appeals, the Board will normally be made up of five judges.
What does acting as a JCPC agent involve?
A JCPC agent is the authorized representative on record for each party to the appeal and provides support to the client and its solicitors at all stages of the appeal. It is familiar with the JCPC Rules (which are specific to the JCPC and distinct from other UK procedural rules such as the CPR) and submits the requisite forms for filing the appeal with the JCPC. The JCPC agent will also liaise with the Registry whenever required.