the appeal lies direct to the court of appeal as successor of the court of exchequer chamber. Appeals from the Liverpool court of passage and from the chancery courts of the duchies of Lancaster and Durham lie by statute direct to the court of appeal.
High Court of Justice.—Until the Supreme Court of Judicature Acts of 1873 and 1875 came into operation, the superior courts in England were imperfectly co-ordinated both as to jurisdiction and appeals. The effect of these acts was to create a Supreme Court of Judicature divided into two main branches, the High Court of Justice, which is an appellate court with respect to the inferior courts already mentioned, and to certain other special courts and persons; and the court of appeal, which is mainly concerned with appeals from the High Court of Justice.
The High Court of Justice acts as an appellate court or court of consultation with reference to courts of summary jurisdiction or quarter sessions and to county courts and other inferior courts of civil jurisdiction in the cases already indicated. The three divisions of the court are somewhat differently placed with reference to appeals.
In the chancery division (made up, in 1908, of six single judge courts) no appeals are heard except from subordinate officials (masters) of the court, or an occasional interference by certiorari or prohibition with a county court.
In the probate, divorce and admiralty division, besides the supervision which may be exercised by a single judge over the subordinate officers of the court (registrars), divisional courts (of two judges) hear appeals from decisions of the county court in admiralty causes, and appeals from justices in cases between husband and wife under the Summary Jurisdiction (Married Women) Act 1895, as amended by the Licensing Act 1902. In the first of these cases the appeal is on law only as in the case of other county court appeals; in the second, the procedure is by rehearing, or reconsideration of the facts as minuted in the court appealed from, and of the law there applied to these facts.
The bulk of the appellate work of the High Court is conducted in the king’s bench division—which, as successor of the old court of king’s bench in the duties of custos morum of the realm, still retains supervisory power over all inferior courts in all cases in which that supervision has not been transferred to the other divisions of the High Court or to the court of appeal, or to the court of criminal appeal.
The king’s bench division exercises appellate jurisdiction in the following cases.
With respect to decisions of justices of the peace sitting at quarter sessions, or as a court of summary jurisdiction, except in the case above stated, the subject matter of appeal is for the most part of a criminal or quasi-criminal character, the civil jurisdiction of justices being comparatively limited. The appeal in such cases is as to matters of law only, the justices’ decision on facts not being subject to review.
In the case of the courts above named, the appeal is brought by writ of certiorari, where the jurisdiction of quarter sessions to give the judgment challenged is denied in toto, or in some cases by writ of habeas corpus, where the appellant is in custody under an order of the court appealed from (Judicature Act 1894, § 2). The best example of this is the right of a fugitive criminal committed for extradition to challenge the legality of the decision of the committing magistrate by writ of habeas corpus. Save in cases of want of jurisdiction or refusal to exercise it, no appeal lies from quarter sessions except by consent of the court appealed from, which states the facts as ascertained by the inferior court, and invites the review of the superior court upon the questions of law raised by the facts as found.
Decisions of justices sitting in the exercise of summary jurisdiction are subject to review by a special case in which the justices state the facts found by them and their decision on the points of law, and invite the review of the appellate court on these grounds. Such cases for appeal are usually stated by consent of the justices, but in the event of their refusal the appellate court may order that a case shall be stated.
Decisions of justices in the exercise of summary jurisdiction may also be challenged by writ of certiorari as having been wholly outside their jurisdiction; and in such proceeding the appellate tribunal may review the evidence taken below so far as to ascertain whether the justices have by an erroneous finding of fact enabled themselves to assume a jurisdiction which upon the true facts they did not possess.
Where the decision appealed from is in a criminal cause or matter the decision of the High Court is final. Where it is in a civil matter a further appeal also lies to the court of appeal by leave of the High Court or of the court of appeal (Judicature Act 1873, § 45).
Appeals in criminal cases tried on indictment, criminal information or coroner’s inquisition, stand on a different footing from other appeals.
For many years the question of criminal appeal in general had been a matter of great controversy. As early as 1844 a bill had been unsuccessfully introduced for the purpose of establishing appeal in criminal cases, and from that time up to 1906 nearly thirty bills were brought forward with the same object, but none succeeded in passing. In 1892 the question was referred to the council of judges and favourably reported upon by them. It may be remarked that England was practically the only civilized country in which there was no appeal in criminal cases. It is true there was an appeal on questions of law arising at the trial. But the procedure was intricate and technical, being either (1) by writ of error, issued by the consent of the attorney-general (expressed by his fiat), to review errors of law appearing in the record of the trial, or (2) by special case, stated by the judge presiding at the trial, with respect to a question of law raised at the trial. These appeals were heard by the king’s bench division. Meanwhile there had been a considerable development of public opinion in favour of the establishment of criminal appeal, a development undoubtedly hastened by the report of a committee of inquiry in the case of Adolf Beck (1904), showing clearly that the home office was not a satisfactory tribunal of final appeal. In 1906 the lord chancellor (Lord Loreburn) introduced another criminal appeal bill, which passed the House of Lords, but was dropped in the House of Commons after a first reading. The next year the act (Criminal Appeal Act 1907), which was ultimately carried, was introduced into the House of Commons. By this act a court is established consisting of the lord chief justice and eight judges of the king’s bench division, the jurisdiction of the court for crown cases reserved being transferred to the new court. The court to be duly constituted must consist of not less than three judges and of an uneven number of judges. The court may sit in two or more divisions if the lord chief justice so directs. Its sittings are held in London unless special directions are given by the lord chief justice that it shall sit at some other place. The opinion of the majority of those hearing the case determines any question before the court, and judgment is pronounced by the president (who is the lord chief justice or senior member present), unless in questions of law, when, if it is convenient that separate judgments should be pronounced by the members of the court, they may be so pronounced. The judgment of the court of criminal appeal is final, except where the decision involves a point of law of exceptional public importance, and a certificate must be obtained from the attorney-general to that effect. The court of criminal appeal is a superior court of record. An appeal may be made either against conviction or against sentence. A person convicted on indictment may appeal either on a question of law alone or of fact alone, or on a question of mixed law and fact. On a point of law a prisoner has an unqualified right of appeal, on a question of fact or of mixed law and fact there is a right of appeal only if leave be obtained from the court of criminal appeal or a certificate be granted by the judge who tried the prisoner that it is a fit case for appeal. The court is given a wide discretion as to whether a conviction may be sustained or set aside. The court may allow the appeal if they think that the verdict of the jury should be set aside because it is