FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The role of the UKSC

The Building

Facilities

Access to information and advice

Professional users

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The role of the UKSC

Why was the UKSC established?

The UKSC was established to achieve the complete separation of the United Kingdom's senior judges from the upper House of Parliament, emphasising the independence of the then Law Lords (now UKSC Justices) and increasing transparency at the top of the judicial system.

In August 2009 the Law Lords moved out of the House of Lords (where they sat as the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords) into their own building on the opposite side of Parliament Square. They sat for the first time as Justices of the UKSC in October 2009.

How does the UKSC fit into the UK's courts system?

The UKSC replaced the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords as the highest court in the United Kingdom in October 2009.

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.

The UKSC also hears cases on devolution matters under the Scotland Act 1998, the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 2006. This jurisdiction was transferred to the UKSC from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

The UKSC hears appeals from the following courts in each jurisdiction:

England and Wales
  • The Court of Appeal, Civil Division
  • The Court of Appeal, Criminal Division
  • (in some limited cases) the High Court
Scotland
  • The Court of Session
Northern Ireland
  • The Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland
  • (in some limited cases) the High Court

You can view this in diagram form (PDF).

Who are the UKSC Justices?

Please see the Biographies of the Justices section of this website for more information about each Justice.

How are the UKSC Justices appointed?

When a vacancy arises, an independent selection commission is set up, consisting of representatives from the different legal jurisdictions of the UK (England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).

To be eligible to become a Justice, an individual must either have been a High Court judge for two years or a practising lawyer for at least 15 years.

Once a new Justice has been chosen they are formally appointed by Her Majesty The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Can the UKSC overrule the UK Parliament?

No. Unlike some Supreme Courts in other parts of the world, the UK Supreme Court does not have the power to 'strike down' legislation passed by the UK Parliament. It is the Court's role to interpret the law and develop it where necessary, rather than formulate public policy.

Can the UKSC overrule Devolved Parliaments and Assemblies in other parts of the UK?

The UKSC can hear 'devolution issues', which include questions about whether a Bill or Act of Parliament, or any provision of a Bill or Act of Parliament, is within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament or the Northern Ireland Assembly. Under the Government of Wales Act 2006, a question whether an Order in Council, Assembly Measure, Act of the Assembly or Bill is within the legislative competence of the Welsh Assembly can also be referred to the UKSC.

Can the European Court of Human Rights or the Court of Justice of the European Union overrule the UKSC?

No. However, when making decisions, the UKSC must give effect to the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as contained in the Human Rights Act 1998.

The UKSC must also give effect to directly applicable European Union law, and interpret domestic law consistently with European Union law, so far as is possible.

From 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013, two cases were referred by the UKSC to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Please see The Supreme Court and Europe section of this website for more information.

How many cases are heard in a year by the UKSC and JCPC?

From 1 April 2012 - 31 March 2013, 83 cases were heard by the UKSC.

This was in addition to 36 cases heard by the JCPC.

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The Building

Why was the Middlesex Guildhall chosen as the home of the UKSC?

When the decision was made to establish the UKSC, a comprehensive evaluation of a number of buildings within the central London area was undertaken. This property evaluation exercise was based on the statement of requirements agreed with the Law Lords and the initial search generated a long-list of 48 properties. After closer scrutiny against a number of criteria (size, operational efficiency, adaptability and suitability), five of these merited further consideration, and the Middlesex Guildhall, situated on Parliament Square, was finally chosen.

Why was the building called the "Middlesex Guildhall"?

The building which is home to the UKSC was built in 1913 as the headquarters for Middlesex County Council and Quarter Sessions. The Council was abolished (through the formation of the Greater London Council) in 1965 and the building subsequently became Middlesex Crown Court. In 2007, the Crown Court closed its doors and the building underwent a two-year renovation prior to opening as the UKSC in October 2009.

Why is there not the Royal Coat of Arms in every courtroom?

As a United Kingdom court (hearing civil appeals from the whole of the United Kingdom and criminal appeals from England, Wales and Northern Ireland), the decision not to use the Royal Coat of Arms in the courtrooms took account of the provisions of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 and the fact that different versions of the Coat of Arms are used in different parts of the UK.

The decision also took account of the fact that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council also sits in the building and it is the final court of appeal for some countries that are Republics.

However, a version of the Royal Coat of Arms is installed above the entrance to the building and a historic version is also on the ceiling of the Library.

What does the Supreme Court emblem represent?

The UKSC's official emblem is formed by a heraldic representation of the flowers of the four countries of the United Kingdom, surrounded by a motif representing both Libra for justice and Omega for finality.

The formal version, which was approved by the Garter King of Arms and Her Majesty The Queen, is surmounted by the Crown to indicate that the UKSC operates under the authority of the Monarch. This version of our emblem is used on all formal correspondence, judgments, reports, Justices' stationery, formal invitations etc. It also forms part of our official seal, which is used by the Registry when sealing all documents and is the main identifying feature at the entrance to the building.

In common with many organisations, the UKSC adopts a range of versions of the emblem depending on the context.

Further details about the design of the emblem can be found in our New Artwork section of this website.

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Facilities

What are the opening hours of the UKSC?

The UKSC is open to the public from 0930 to 1630 (last entry) Monday to Friday. Legal teams may enter from 0830 on days when the court is sitting. The UKSC is closed on weekends except for special occasions such as Open House London weekend, which are advertised on the front page of this website.

Those who are interested in finding out about the history of the building after hours or at the weekend can download our audio guide of the outside of the building which highlights its rich architectural features.

The audio guide lasts around 15 minutes and can be freely downloaded in a number of ways:

  • If you have an iPhone or iPad, search for "Supreme Court tour" on the App Store
  • If you have an Android device, look for "Supreme Court tour" on the Play Store/Market
  • You can also download the audio guide as an MP3 file from this page - simply right click and 'Save As' to your computer, then transfer to your playback device in the usual way

For more information, please see the audio guide of the exterior page of this website

How do I get to the UKSC?

Please see our How to find us section for details of our location and travel information.

Is the UKSC wheelchair accessible?

Yes, the UKSC is completely wheelchair accessible.

Are there visual impairment facilities at the UKSC?

Yes. We can provide large print and Braille versions of our key visitor leaflet for you to use during your visit.

We also offer tours specifically designed for those with visual impairments. Please email Enquiries for more information and to book onto a tour.

The UKSC also has Braille notices on the toilet doors and our website has also met the required standards for text size and undergone independent auditing to ensure use of good practice in web accessibility.

Does the UKSC have a hearing loop?

Yes. To make use of this please turn your hearing aid to 'T' upon entry to the building.

Can I sit in the courtrooms and walk around the building?

Yes. When the courts are in session, members of the public are more than welcome to sit in the public gallery (the rows of benches at the back of the courtrooms), provided they turn off their mobile phones. If you do not wish to watch a hearing or there are none occurring during your visit, then you are more than welcome to walk around the building and see the courtrooms not currently in use, as well as explore our educational exhibition which is situated on the lower ground floor.

Can I access the Library?

No. The Library is only for the use of the UKSC Justices and their Judicial Assistants. However, its doors are opened to the public on Open House London weekend and selected other dates, which are advertised on the front page of this website.

Can I take photos around the building?

Yes. Photography is allowed inside the UKSC but not in any of the courtrooms which are in session or prepared for hearings that day.

When does the UKSC sit?

During term time the UKSC generally sits from Monday to Thursday; usually from 1100 on Mondays, and from 1030 Tuesday to Thursday until 1600. (There is a break at lunchtime from 1300 to 1400.)

Is there a minimum age for admission to the courtrooms?

No. We do not have a minimum age for admission to the courtrooms.

If I decide to watch a hearing, do I have to stay in the courtroom for a minimum amount of time?

No. There is no minimum time for which you must stay in the courtroom to watch a hearing.

However, if you are present in a courtroom where the hand-down of a judgment is taking place (normally Wednesday mornings at 0945) we ask that you remain in the courtroom for the duration of the hand-down (normally around 15 minutes).

Are there any rules which I need to observe during a hearing?

No. However, it is customary to bow to the Justices whenever they enter and leave the courtroom.

Can I take photos in the courtroom during a hearing?

No. Photography is not allowed in courtrooms which are in session or prepared for hearings that day.

Can I "tweet" or text from the courtroom during a hearing?

Yes, usually, subject to any directions from the Justices.

Further details can be found in our Policy on the use of live, text-based communications from Court on this website.

Do you provide information about the appeals which are being heard by the UKSC?

Yes. Visitors can pick up case summaries for the appeals being heard on the day of their visit from the Reception Desk and other information is available on our Current cases section.

Where can I buy refreshments?

The UKSC has a cafe on the lower ground floor, which serves a range of hot and cold food and drinks.

Is there anywhere to leave my belongings?

No. Due to space and security issues we do not have anywhere to store visitors' belongings.

What should I do if I lose my personal belongings while at the UKSC?

Please contact our Security team. More information can be found in our lost property policy on this website.

Are there baby changing facilities?

Yes. There is a disabled toilet on the lower ground floor, which also has baby changing facilities.

Does the UKSC sell souvenirs?

Yes. A range of souvenirs can be purchased from the cafe on the lower ground floor of the building.

Please see the Shop section of this website for more information.

Do you provide information leaflets?

Yes. We offer a range of information leaflets covering the UKSC, JCPC and the history and architecture of the Middlesex Guildhall building.

Do you provide information leaflets in foreign languages?

Yes. In addition to English we provide our main information leaflet in Welsh, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Do you offer guided tours for members of the public?

Yes. For a small charge, visitors can join one of our Friday guided tours. You can book for up to 25 people, provided there are spaces available.

Please see the Guided tours section of this website for more information.

Do you offer tours for educational institutions?

Yes. We offer free tours for groups of up to 25 to 30 people. To avoid disappointment, tours should be booked at least 10 weeks in advance.

Please see the School & college tours section of this website for more information and our educational visits booking form.

Can I do an audio guided tour of the building?

We do not have an audio guided tour for the inside of the building.

However, those interested can download an audio guide of the outside of the building which highlights its rich architectural features.

The audio guide lasts around 15 minutes and can be freely downloaded in a number of ways:

  • If you have an iPhone or iPad, search for "Supreme Court tour" on the App Store
  • If you have an Android device, look for "Supreme Court tour" on the Play Store/Market
  • You can also download the audio guide as an MP3 file from this page - simply right click and 'Save As' to your computer, then transfer to your playback device in the usual way.

For more information please see the audio tour of exterior section of this website.

Is there an exhibition?

Yes. We have a free permanent exhibition about the history and work of the UKSC and JCPC on the lower ground floor of the building.

For more information, and for details of our temporary summer exhibitions, please see the Exhibition - what's on section of this website.

Are there any activities for children?

Yes. We have a quiz sheet aimed at 5 to 10 year olds, which they can complete while exploring the building. Older children may be interested in the interactive educational exhibition on the lower ground floor.

Is it possible to meet a UKSC Justice in person?

As you will appreciate, the Justices spend the bulk of their time in the building sitting in court, preparing for cases and writing judgments, so they are rarely available to address visiting groups.

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Access to information and advice

How do I ask for information under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act or submit a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act?

We aim to make as much information as possible available through our FOI Publication Scheme. If the information you require is not available through our Publication Scheme you may send your request to :

Paul Brigland
Departmental Records Officer
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
Parliament Square
London
SW1P 3DB

Email Paul Brigland

Remember that the FOI Act gives you the right to ask for recorded information held by public authorities, and if it is held, to be provided with that information, subject to certain exemptions. Court records, for example, are exempt from disclosure under section 32. The FOI Act does not give the right to seek opinions, legal interpretation or explanations.

If you wish to apply for access to your personal data, known as a "subject access request" under the Data Protection Act, please refer to the relevant part of our Publication Scheme or write to Paul Brigland whose contact details are given above.

Does the UKSC provide advice on legal matters?

The UKSC does not provide a legal information or advice service. Registry staff can only advise on procedural matters in relation to the cases which come before it. The UKSC's judgments are available as part of our Publication Scheme and can be viewed on the Decided cases section of this website.

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Professional users

Can I appeal to the UKSC?

The Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court can be found in Practice Direction 1. This describes the courts by which your case must have already been heard before you can apply for permission to appeal to the UKSC.

Is Legal Aid available for taking cases to the UKSC?

In certain circumstances, yes. However, the UKSC does not make decisions about whether or not legal aid should be granted to parties (though it may determine the amount of costs to be paid by parties following a hearing). Your legal professional will be able to advise on the process for seeking such aid, the system for which is co-ordinated by the Legal Aid Agency (for England and Wales, other bodies are responsible in Scotland and Northern Ireland).

I have exhausted all my domestic remedies. How do I obtain a letter to enable me to go to European Court of Human Rights?

You should contact the Court of Appeal, or the court you wish to appeal from, which will provide you with the required letter.

What are the opening hours of the Registry?

The Registry is open from 1000 to 1630 on Mondays to Thursdays during the law terms and from 1000 to 1600 on Fridays and outside the law terms. During August the Registry is open from 1000 to 1400.

The Registry is open on every day of the year except:

  1. Saturdays and Sundays,
  2. the Thursday before Good Friday, Good Friday and the day after Easter Monday,
  3. during the Christmas vacation (a two week period over Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, published on this website in December),
  4. Bank Holidays in England and Wales under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, and
  5. such other days as the Registrar, with the agreement of the President and the Chief Executive, may direct.
To whom should cheques for court fees be made payable?

Cheques should be made payable to "The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom". Details of fees payable can be found via the Fees and costs page of this website.

How long does it take for my case to be processed once I have handed in my form and documents?

Applications for permission to appeal take approximately eight sitting weeks to be determined. Parties will be informed by letter and/or email.

How can I find out the term dates of the UKSC?

Please see the Term dates page of this website for details.

How can I find out when a case is due to be heard by the UKSC?

Please visit the Court sittings section of this website for the dates and times of forthcoming cases.

Can I get a copy of a party's 'skeleton argument' or case?

The UKSC does not publish parties' cases. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of such papers you are encouraged to contact the parties directly with their request. Parties should note that, generally speaking, the Court has no objection to them releasing their cases (skeleton arguments).

Should parties decline a request made of them for disclosure of their case, an application can be lodged with the Registrar seeking such disclosure (using Court form 2). This attracts the fee for 'other applications' (currently £350).

How can I find out when a judgment is due to be published?

As soon as we are aware of the hand-down date for a judgment, it is published on the Future judgments section of this website. As a very broad indication, judgments tend to follow approximately 12 weeks (excluding vacation) after the conclusion of the appeal hearing.

We are unable to give any indication of the likely hand-down date for judgments not listed on the 'Future judgments' page, and you may find it more helpful to check that page regularly rather than contacting us about dates.

How do I sign up to receive the latest judgments from the UKSC?

Please email Enquiries with your request. Most UKSC judgments are published on Wednesday mornings at 0945 during term time.

Please note that this facility is not currently available for cases heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

How can I access footage from the courtrooms?

On the front page of this website there is a link to Sky News' live streaming service which takes you directly to a web page where you can watch the live proceedings of the UKSC. On days where more than one UKSC case is being heard, we broadcast the case likely to be of greater public interest.

Footage of the Justices' brief summaries of their judgments is uploaded to a dedicated channel on YouTube shortly after hand-down in court.

We are unable to provide footage of past cases or judgments to members of the public or the legal profession, as it is extremely resource-intensive for us to convert our broadcast-quality footage to domestic level DVDs or other output formats. Consequently, administering and fulfilling such requests is not possible within the Court's current resources.

Educational establishments or media organisations seeking copies of past hearings or judgments should contact the Communications team.

How do I get passes for my Legal team?

Passes are not required for access to the Court or to private meeting rooms, which should instead be booked with our caterers. See room booking details on the Practical arrangements section of this website.

How do I book lunch for my Legal team?

Please see the Hospitality services section of this website for details.

Are there meeting room facilities available for me to hold private discussions with my Legal team?

You can book a meeting room for your legal team to use throughout your hearing (generally limited to 0900 to 1700) by stipulating this requirement on Court form 4. This form must be returned at least 24 hours before your appeal is due to be heard. We cannot guarantee meeting rooms will be available for every party on busy sitting days.

How do I find my allocated meeting room on arrival?

Please speak to colleagues at our Reception desk (staffed from 0900) who will be happy to help. For safety and security reasons, professional users should also report to the desk to sign in upon arrival.

Does the UKSC have video conferencing facilities?

Yes. However, availability is not guaranteed. When completing Court form 4 you should stipulate that you would like access to such facilities and we will inform you of availability.

Is Wi-Fi available at the UKSC?

BT OpenZone has good coverage throughout the building, including the courtrooms. However, in common with other Government buildings and courts, this is not provided free of charge, and you need to set up an account with BT in advance in order to access this service. Alternatively, you can 'pay as you go' by credit or debit card by connecting to the BT OpenZone network with the strongest signal and then following the on-screen instructions via your browser.

Can I book the UKSC as a venue for an event?

Yes. The Court has two rooms for hire for corporate events in the evening or during recess. We can accommodate a maximum of 60 guests for a sit down dinner or 100 guests for a drinks reception.

For more information, please see the Venue hire section of this website or email our Events Manager.

Can I apply to do work experience at the UKSC?

No. Unfortunately, we do not have the staff resources to support students wishing to spend time here on work experience, and the nature of our work makes it difficult for us to permit non-staff to have access to our office systems. To be fair to everyone, we can therefore not assist with any such requests.

However, students are always welcome to visit the Court to sit in on cases and look round our educational exhibition.

If you are interested in a career in law, depending on where you live, you might also like to try:

Can I apply to 'marshal' a UKSC Justice?

No. The UKSC's judicial support arrangements mean we are unable to offer such opportunities.

If you are interested in marshalling you are advised to contact your local Crown Court and ask if any Circuit Judges are taking on a marshal or, if you are affiliated to one of the Inns of Court, you should approach a judge through them.

It is worth noting that applicants are usually expected to have completed either the Legal Practice Course or the Bar Vocational Course before they apply for marshalling.

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