7 May 2012

Invincible Ignorance – or when STFU is appropriate

In light of the misinformation in the press, spouted by ignorant persons who have lived all their lives on a small Rock and having ignored the opportunities that are presented to them to [merely read and] enlighten themselves, I attempt to bring light to the darkness of their ignorance.

Specifically, I explain what is the role, and the functions of the Privy Council to those who choose to remain ignorant. Sometimes a candle can do much to dispense darkness, nuh, even if it is at risk of being blown out.

My post today was prompted by one HM Castillo who wrote:

Solomon makes no mention of the UK Supreme Court which will eventually take over a lot of matters previously handled by the JCPC for the UK. What then will happen to the JCPC?

Castillo displayed the common misconception, that the English Supreme Court is taking over the functions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

I urge readers to pay attention: They are two different courts, but have the same judges sitting in adjudication.

In other words, the 12 judges of the Supreme Court are also the 12 judges of the JCPC.

Perhaps further enlightenment can come from the ‘About’ sections of the relevant websites.


The Judicial Committee of The Privy Council (JCPC) is the court of final appeal for the UK overseas territories and Crown dependencies, and for those Commonwealth countries that have retained the appeal to Her Majesty in Council or, in the case of Republics, to the Judicial Committee.

It 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.

United Kingdom appeals

The Judicial Committee hears domestic appeals to Her Majesty in Council as follows:

  • the Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
  • against certain schemes of the Church Commissioners under the Pastoral Measure 1983

The Judicial Committee also has the following rarely-used jurisdictions:

  • appeals from the Arches Court of Canterbury and the Chancery Court of York in non-doctrinal faculty causes
  • appeals from Prize Courts
  • disputes under the House of Commons Disqualification Act
  • appeals from the Court of Admiralty of the Cinque Ports

Additionally, Her Majesty has the power to refer any matter to the Judicial Committee for "consideration and report" under section 4 of the Judicial Committee Act 1833.

Under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, devolution cases from the regions of the United Kingdom are now heard by The Supreme Court.

Crown dependencies

  • Jersey
  • Guernsey
  • Isle of Man

Commonwealth appeals

To bring an appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, you must have been granted leave by the lower court whose decision you are appealing.  In the absence of leave, permission to appeal must be granted by the Board.  In some cases there is an appeal as of right and a slightly different procedure applies.

In civil cases, the lower court will generally grant you leave to appeal if the court is satisfied that your case raises a point of general public importance.

In criminal cases, it is unusual for the lower court to have the power to grant leave unless your case raises questions of great and general importance, or there has been some grave violation of the principles of natural justice.

Appeal therefore lies from these countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Cook Islands and Niue (Associated States of New Zealand)
  • Grenada
  • Jamaica
  • St Christopher and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Tuvalu

Legislation enacted in New Zealand in October 2003 abolished appeals from New Zealand to the Privy Council in respect of all cases heard by the Court of Appeal of New Zealand after the end of 2003.  This New Zealand legislation does not affect rights of appeal from the Cook Islands and Niue.

Appeal to the Judicial Committee also lies from the following independent republics within the Commonwealth

  • the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
  • the Commonwealth of Dominica
  • Kiribati
  • Mauritius

The circumstances in which appeals may be brought are similar to those in which appeals lie to Her Majesty in Council as above, except that from Kiribati an appeal lies only in cases where it is alleged that certain constitutional rights of any Banaban or of the Rabi Council have been or are likely to be infringed.

Overseas territories and sovereign base appeals

The Judicial Committee hears appeals from the following overseas territories of the United Kingdom:

  • Anguilla
  • Bermuda
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Falkland Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Montserrat
  • Pitcairn Islands
  • St Helena and dependencies
  • Turks and Caicos Islands

Additionally, appeals are heard from sovereign base areas in Cyprus:

  • Akrotiri
  • Dhekelia

Appeals to local head of state

In civil cases only, an appeal lies to the Judicial Committee from the Court of Appeal of Brunei to the Sultan and Yang di-Pertuan.

By agreement between Her Majesty and the Sultan these appeals are heard by the Judicial Committee, whose opinion is reported to the Sultan instead of to Her Majesty.

Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases. It hears appeals in criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It hears cases of the greatest public or constitutional importance affecting the whole population.

In October 2009, The Supreme Court replaced the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords as the highest court in the United Kingdom.

The Supreme Court’s 12 Justices maintain the highest standards set by the Appellate Committee, but are now explicitly separate from both Government and Parliament.

The Court hears appeals on arguable points of law of the greatest public importance, for the whole of the United Kingdom in civil cases, and for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in criminal cases. 

Additionally, it hears cases on devolution matters under the Scotland Act 1998, the Northern Ireland Act 1988 and the Government of Wales Act 2006. This jurisdiction was transferred to the Supreme Court from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

The Supreme Court sits in the former Middlesex Guildhall, on the western side of Parliament Square. 

This new location is highly symbolic of the United Kingdom’s separation of powers, balancing judiciary and legislature across the open space of Parliament Square, with the other two sides occupied by the executive (the Treasury building) and the church (Westminster Abbey).

The Supreme Court also decides devolution issues, that is issues about whether the devolved executive and legislative authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have acted or propose to act within their powers or have failed to comply with any other duty imposed on them. Devolution cases can reach the Supreme Court in three ways:

  • Through a reference from someone who can exercise relevant statutory powers such as the Attorney General, whether or not the issue is the subject of litigation
  • Through an appeal from certain higher courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
  • Through a reference from certain appellate courts.

HM Castillo was/is wrong. The Supreme Court is not empowered to ‘take over over a lot of matters previously handled by the JCPC for the UK’ since the two courts perform entirely different functions.

Certain people should use the tools they are presented with, to inform themselves. GOOGLE is fantastic! But rather than avail themselves of readily accessible information, they prefer to posture and strut. As I said many a time, they know, and they know what they know, even if we don't know what they know they know.

Or as the Captain said:

The usual strategy of the uneducated empty vessels is to shout abuse, attempt to shut up people and make wild but empty assertions not based on facts. They are driven by base instincts rather than any faculty that could be applied sensibly to the issue under discussion. Stupidity and ignorance takes no effort yet it stands in the way of progress. It's called invincible ignorance.