It can be tricky to understand the Civil Court Structure. If you become involved in a civil case, it may not reach a court due to Alternative Dispute Resolution, however, if it does, you should have an understanding of where your case may be heard.
Each civil case will be placed within a ‘track’ at the beginning of the trial, this helps to differentiate where the case will be heard and are often decided based upon their value and complexity.
The County Courts are where most civil claims are heard. The County Courts hear both appeal cases and first hearing cases. Individuals are present at the court to enforce and collect the damages awarded. They will either be heard by a District Judge, a Deputy District Judge, or a Circuit Judge. The Circuit Judges are superior in comparison to District Judges and Deputy District Judges, and have a wider position within the courts.
The High Court is divided into three sections: The Queen’s Bench Division, The Chancery Court and The Family Court. Claims here are generally heard by one judge who
hears both first-hearing cases and appeal cases arriving from a County Court.
The Chancery Division deals with business and property disputes, including, but not limited to, Intellectual Property Claims, Patents, Registered Designs, Mortgages, Trusts and Estates.
The Queen’s Bench Division hears cases regarding Defamation of Character, Trespassing and Negligence, also dealing with general civil disputes such as contractual claims.
The Family Division conducts cases involving Adoption, Guardianships, Separation and Divorce.
The Court of Appeal is the next court allocated to appeal cases, where three judges will be present. For an appeal case to reach the Court of Appeal, permission must be obtained by the court whose decision is being appealed. Where certain circumstances are met, this can also be granted by the Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court is the final appeal court in the UK; where an appeal has continued and reaches the Supreme Court for a final opportunity to appeal the previous decisions. Prior to the Supreme Court’s creation in 2009, the House of Lords would hear final appeals. The Supreme Court cases are often heard by five law lords, however this may change on a case-by-case basis.