05/2017 - News release
Brexit spotlight reflected in Court's Annual Report
29 June 2017
The Supreme Court's hearing of the Government's appeal against the decision that it did not possess the power to trigger Brexit without Parliamentary approval was a "truly exceptional" case that "has helped to draw attention to the work of the Court and... underline the Court's place in the constitution", according to the Court's Annual Report, published and laid before Parliament today.
Writing his last foreword before he steps down over the summer, Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, describes how the Court was "able to hear [the Miller case] in relatively short order, to accommodate an unprecedented number of legal teams, to provide extensive overflow viewing facilities for members of the public as well as seats in court, and to deliver judgment by the end of January."
The Report reveals some of the logistical challenges involved in hearing the appeal, and the fact that the judgment has been downloaded more than 35,000 times from the Supreme Court website.
The profile of the case "[propelled] the institution into the public consciousness to an extent not seen previously", and was a contributory factor in online visitors increasing by 72% against the previous year, totalling a record of over one million virtual visitors in the year ending 31 March 2017.
The Annual Report also highlights ground work for the Court's historic first sitting outside London, which took place this June in Edinburgh; and investment in video conferencing equipment to allow parties appearing before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to do so remotely in appropriate cases.
Supreme Court hearings
The Report sets out how the Supreme Court heard one less appeal than the year before (91 compared to 92 in 2015/16). The Court delivered 76 judgments, five less than the total in 2015/16.
Analysis of judgments handed down by the Supreme Court during the year shows more decisions relating to immigration and statutory interpretation (up from 2 to 7 and 0 to 4 judgments respectively against 2015/16), while the number of cases related to human rights and tax both decreased against the previous year (from 9 to 4 and 7 to 3 respectively).
Despite the high-profile instance of the Court sitting with all eleven serving Justices for the Miller case, over the course of the whole year the Court has sat slightly fewer times as a panel of more than five Justices. It typically does so when the Court is being asked to depart from a previous decision of the Supreme Court or the House of Lords, or when a case raises an issue of particularly high constitutional or public importance. The Court sat as a panel of seven or nine in 12% appeals during 2016/17, down from 14% during 2015/16 (which was a record for the Court).
Permission to appeal applications
The number of applications for permission to appeal considered by the Justices again decreased (by 11% to 192). There was a marked decrease in requests to bring appeals in criminal matters (from 19 in 2015/16 to 5 this year), family law (down from 18 to 8) and immigration law (36 to 25). Bucking this trend, there was an increase in the number of applications for the Court to hear appeals about contract law (up from 6 to 12).
In considering those applications, the 'grant rate' of cases given permission to appeal increased slightly to 35% (from 32% in 2015/16). While there were more applications for permission to appeal in contract law cases, the grant rate decreased (from 50% in 2015/16 to 20% of applications in 2016/17), while the proportion of employment and planning cases accepted for a full hearing increased markedly (from 44% to 66% and 10% to 55% respectively).
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which is co-located with the Supreme Court and shares the Court's administration, heard two more appeals during 2016/17 than the previous year (47 compared to 45) though gave fewer judgments (38 compared to 48). There was a considerable increase in cases being brought from the Committee's various overseas jurisdictions (there were 60 applications for permission to appeal received over the year, compared to 48 last year).
In financial terms, the Court's net operating cost (this excludes changes to the valuation of the building) increased slightly to £4.8m (from £4.5m in 2015/16). The accounts show that the Supreme Court and JCPC spent £12.5m during 2016/17 (almost half of which was judicial and staff costs), and recouped almost £8m in court fees, contributions from the UK court services, and other income.
The Annual Report also sets out how the Court met its commitments in areas including international relations, sustainability and information assurance.
The full Report and Accounts can be downloaded below.
Ben Wilson - Head of Communications
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Tim Malone - Communications & Outreach Manager
020 7960 1886