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UK Law

Basic information on the courts system in the UK

Activity of the courts

Excerpt from the Court Statistics Quarterly January to March 2014

On average, only between 3% and 3.5% of all civil cases go to hearing or trial. The vast majority, which do not involve family cases or failure to pay council tax or child maintenance, are handled in the county courts. Particularly important, complex or substantial cases are dealt with in the High Court.

All family cases are dealt with at Family Proceedings Courts (which are part of the magistrates’ courts), at county courts or in the Family Division of the High Court.

Virtually all criminal court cases start in a magistrates’ court. The less serious offences are handled entirely in magistrates’ courts. More serious offences are passed on to the Crown Court, either for sentencing after the defendant has been found guilty in a
magistrates’ court, or for a full trial with a judge and jury. The Crown Court also receives appeals against decisions of the magistrates’ courts.


Law reports available in GSM London library

Law reports on online legal databases

Lexis Library

Westlaw UK


Law reports and court judgments on the Net



Courts websites and structure of the judiciary in England and Wales


Since the establishment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in 1952, its mission has been to ensure that "the law is observed" "in the interpretation and application" of the Treaties. As part of that mission, the Court of Justice of the European Union:

  • Reviews the legality of the acts of the institutions of the European Union,
  • Ensures that the Member States comply with obligations under the Treaties, and
  • Interprets European Union law at the request of the national courts and tribunals.

Its responsibilities are stated in the purview of art.19 of TEU Treaty

Judges' selection

Appointment of judges and  Advocates-General of the Court of Justice and Judges of the General Court is set out in Articles 253 and 254 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)


Case law search

CURIA database


Council of Europe

CoE is the international organisation established in the aftermath of WW II to protect human rights in the continent. Its major achievement was the implementation of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

basic information

The Statute of the Council of Europe was signed in London on 5th May 1949. Organisation.

UK membership

UK was one of the founding members of the Pan-European organisation.

The European Convention on Human Rights

This Convention is one of the international treaties signed by the member States of the Council of Europe. This international instrument was passed to secure fundamental civil and political rights, not only for the citizens of the member States but also to everyone within their jurisdiction. The Convention, which was signed on 4 November 1950 in Rome, entered into force in 1953.                

Text of the European Convention on Human Rights

Establishment of the European Court of Human Rights and Court mandate:

Article 19 of the Convention established the European Court of Human Rights and defined in the purview  the Court mandate:

"To ensure the observance of the engagements undertaken by the High Contracting Parties in the Convention and the Protocols thereto, there shall be set up a European Court of Human Rights, hereinafter referred to as "the Court". It shall function on a permanent basis."


European Court of Human Rights


Appointment of judges regulated is by art.20 of ECHR Convention

Case law research

Case processing and working methods


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