The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is one of the highest courts in the United Kingdom, as well as being the highest court of appeal for several independent countries that were formerly part of the British Empire, the UK overseas territories and the British crown dependencies.
The judicial system of the United Kingdom is unusual in having no highest national court; the Judicial Committee is the highest court of appeal in some cases, while in many others the highest court of appeal is the House of Lords.
The Judicial Committee has the power to hear cases involving:
- devolution issues arising under the Scotland Act 1998, the Government of Wales Act 1998, or the Northern Ireland Act 1998, i.e. disputes regarding the validity of acts of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly
- acts as highest court of appeal for certain Commonwealth countries, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Kiribati, Mauritius, New Zealand, St. Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Tuvalu.
- acts as highest court of appeal for UK Overseas Territories, namely Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, St. Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the Soverign Base Area of Akrotiri
- acts as highest court of appeal for the British crown dependencies, namely the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
- appeals from disciplinary committees of various professional regulatory bodies in the UK
- certain cases involving the Church of England
- disputes concerning whether someone is eligible to be elected to the House of Commons
- appeals in certain admirality cases
Formerly appeals to the Privy Council could be made from Australia; however this right of appeal was effectively abolished from the Commonwealth Courts by the Privy Council (Limitation of Appeals) Act 1968 and the Privy Council (Appeals from the High Court) Act 1975, and from the State courts by the Australia Act 1986. Technically, a litigant may appeal to the Privy Council with the permission of the Supreme Court of Austrailia. However, the Austrailian Supreme Court does not grant permission.