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The Judicial Committee

The Judicial Committee

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council originated as the highest court of civil and criminal appeal for the British Empire.

It now fulfils the same purpose for many Commonwealth countries, as well as the United Kingdom’s overseas territories, crown dependencies, and military sovereign base areas.

Over the years it has been asked for final rulings and interpretations of many different kinds of law, from Roman Dutch law in appeals from South Africa, to pre-revolutionary French law from Quebec, and Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu law from India.

The Judicial Committee also hears very occasional appeals from a number of ancient and ecclesiastical courts.  These include the Church Commissioners, the Arches Court of Canterbury, the Chancery Court of York, prize courts and the Court of Admiralty of the Cinque Ports.

Five judges normally sit to hear Commonwealth appeals, and three for other matters.  These judges are usually Justices of The Supreme Court.

Until October 2009, the Judicial Committee heard appeals in the Council Chamber in Downing Street.  Today it shares a building, and many administrative functions, with The Supreme Court, and usually sits in Court 3.