The jurisdiction of the Privy Council originated at the Norman conquest with the premise that:
“The King is the fountain of all justice throughout his Dominions, and exercises jurisdiction in his Council, which act in an advisory capacity to the Crown.”
This council or court was the ‘Curia Regis’ from which springs the Brtish judicial system. Subjects who had grievances against the administration of justice could submit their petitions to the King who appears to have exercised supreme appellate jurisdiction.
When Parliament developed out of this council, the majority of petitions were referred to the High Court of Parliament, which became the chief appellate tribunal.
At the beginning of the fourteenth century, receivers were appointed to aid the dispensation of justice in Parliament. One group was appointed for Great Britain and Ireland, and one for the Channel Islands.
Appeals from the Channel Islands became the first regular appellate business of the King’s Council, now the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. With the growth of the British empire, this business increased with appeals and petitions from the Royal Council, and Privy Council Committees were formed.
The present constitution of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is based on the Judicial Committee Act 1833.
Under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876, the Law Lords became the permanent judges of the court.
Today, all Privy Counsellors who hold or have held high judicial office in the United Kingdom, or have been judges of superior courts of certain Commonwealth countries, are eligible to sit if they are under 75 years of age.
- Privy Council Papers Online - A digital catalogue of historic cases from 1792 - 1998.
- Appeals to the Privy Council from the American Colonies: An Annotated Digital Catalogue - covering much of the eighteenth century