The new UK supreme court will come into operation in October. The court will mean the abolition of the appeal court in the House of Lords, creating the final separation of the judicial and legislative powers in the UK.
We look at the history behind these fundamental changes:
The House of Commons ceases to hear appeals, leaving the House of Lords, effectively, as the nation’s court of last resort.
Lord Brougham, the lord chancellor, introduces a bill to separate his legal and political roles so that the head of the judiciary would not also be the speaker of the House of Lords.
The Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 establishes the law lords. Only those lords who are legally qualified can now hear the appeals.
The law lords refuse to move to the Middlesex Guildhall to hear appeals – ironically this is now the building where the UK supreme court will be housed.
European Human Rights Act passed by parliament. The Act states that if a judicial officer has legislative or executive power as well, they are not considered sufficiently impartial to provide a fair trial. The mixing of legislative and judicial powers by the law lords is now in potential breach of European law.
Prime minister Tony Blair announces the government’s intention to remove the jurisdiction of the appellate committee of the House of Lords and transfer it to a new supreme court for the UK. Only four of the 12 law lords offer their unequivocal backing, with many complaining the move would cost a lot and have little real benefit.
A House of Lords committee is split over the government’s proposals. The committee eventually decides it can offer no recommendation on whether a supreme court was necessary.
The UK supreme court is established by Part 3 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. It will replace the House of Lords in its judicial capacity.
June 30th – The final judgements and appeal hearings in the House of Lords take place at 16:30 BST.
October 1st – The supreme court will officially come into being, housed opposite the Houses of Parliament in Parliament Square – in what was formerly the Middlesex Guildhall.