About the Supreme Court


On 1 October 2009, the UK obtained a new high court. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom replaced the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords - usually referred to as the Law Lords - as the highest court of appeal in the UK.

What is the Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court rules on points of law that need clarification, or when an appeal has failed in the High Court, with the accused being given permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. This applies to all criminal cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Located in Parliament Square opposite the Houses of Parliament, the new Supreme Court occupies the newly renovated Middlesex Guildhall. It came into being as the direct result of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. Its key duty is to provide even greater separation between the legislature and the judiciary, which should deliver a fairer legal system to all citizens in the UK that they can rely upon.

Before the Supreme Court was created, the most senior judges sat in the House of Lords, a government building, and acted as the supreme court of appeal. The previous judges (or Law Lords) were also members of the House of Lords. Therefore, they could be involved in political debates concerning the passing of Government legislation.

The Supreme Court consists of:

  • 12 Justices
  • These judges are supported by a legal and managerial staff
  • Some of the Justices are former law lords

The UK Supreme Court must take European Union law into account when deciding its verdicts and interpret UK law without deviation from European Union law if possible. In addition, the Court can refer any cases to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, if the way forward to a judgment is not clear to them.

The Court must also take account of the rights embodied in the European Convention on Human Rights and be attentive to judicial verdicts emanating from Strasbourg.

Why was the law reformed?

The Court was created in order to attain more transparency between the judiciary and parliament. The UK Supreme Court is also the Supreme Court of Scotland and Northern Ireland and is independent of the Lord Chief Justice, who is the head of the judiciary of England and Wales. 

The Court has been granted:

  • An independent budget (for which it is accountable to Parliament)
  • An independent appointments system, as well as a building separate from the Houses of Parliament

At the core of the new Supreme Court is its independence. The first Supreme Court judges will be the existing Law Lords, with the Senior Law Lord becoming the Supreme Court President. The Supreme Court will also be the first to have some of its activities shown on television.

If your case is granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, you must have proper legal representation. Your barrister will speak for you when your case appears before the court judges. As appeal cases can be complex, it is important to ensure your barrister is fully aware of the details of your case.

In some cases you can approach a barrister directly, but the usual route will be via a solicitor that can often recommend a suitable barrister to help you fight your case.

Want to know more about appealing your case? Read our page on the court of appeals.

If you have an appeal case that is being heard in the Supreme Court, Contact Law can recommend a specialist litigation lawyer to work on your case or an experienced barrister to represent you in court. We work with around 5,000 lawyers across the UK, and we can hand-pick the perfect lawyer to suit the requirements of your case. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above

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