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Inner House

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Title: Inner House  
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Inner House

The Inner House is the senior part of the Court of Session, the supreme civil court in Scotland; the Outer House forms the junior part of the Court of Session. It is a court of appeal and a court of first instance. The chief justice is the Lord President, with their deputy being the Lord Justice Clerk, and judges of the Inner House are styled Senators of the College of Justice or Lords of Council and Session.[1] Criminal appeals in Scotland are handled by the High Court of Justiciary sitting as the Court of Appeal.

The Inner House is the part of the Court of Session which acts as a court of appeal for cases from the Outer House[2] and from appeals in civil cases from the Sheriff Courts, the Court of the Lord Lyon, Scottish Land Court, and the Lands Tribunal for Scotland. It will also sit as a court of first instance in rare instances. The Inner House is always a panel of at least three Senators and does not sit with a jury.

The division of the Court into two houses was first enacted by the Court of Session Act 1810 and most recently confirmed by the Court of Session Act 1988

First instance jurisdiction

The Inner House will sit as a court of first instance in respect of special cases.[3] A special case is one where the facts are not disputed but where a significant legal difficulty has arisen, such as appeals from the Scottish Information Commissioner.[4]

Appellate jurisdiction

The Inner House is sub-divided into two divisions of equal authority and jurisdiction - the First Division, headed by the Lord President; and the Second Division headed by the Lord Justice Clerk.[5][6] When neither is available to chair a hearing, an Extra Division of three Senators is summoned, chaired by the most senior judge present; due to pressure of business this Extra Division sits frequently nowadays. In practice, almost all hearings in the Inner House are before three judges, although in important cases in which there is a conflict of authority a Court of Five Judges or, exceptionally, seven, may be convened.[7]

Unlike the High Court of Justiciary, which deals with Scottish criminal cases, and whose decisions cannot in general be appealed beyond Scotland, appeals could be taken from the Court of Session to the UK Supreme Court.[8] The constitutional settlement introduced by the Scotland Act 1998 further provided that, in cases where a 'devolution issue' arose, an appeal would lie, and the Inner House can remit a case, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.[9] Both these types of appeal will go instead to the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from 2009.[10]

It was formerly argued that the Act of Union 1707 expressly forbade appeals from the Court of Session to the House of Lords.[11] Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries this was a matter of great concern, as Scottish cases were typically decided by Law Lords with no background in Scots Law. In modern times, the few cases which were so appealed were heard by a judicial committee of five which included at least two senior Scottish judges, but the existence of this right of appeal has been criticised. This debate also spilled into the debate as to whether the judicial functions of the House of Lords and Privy Council should be consolidated in a new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.[12] The ability to appeal to the House of Lords was confirmed by the Court of Session Act 1988.

See also


  1. ^ Information on composition:
  2. ^ Court of Session Act 1988:
  3. ^ First instance jurisdiction:
  4. ^
  5. ^ Court of Session Act 1988:
  6. ^ Divisions:
  7. ^ Information on composition:
  8. ^ Court of Session Act 1988:
  9. ^ Scotland Act 1998:
  10. ^ Constitutional Reform Act 2005:
  11. ^ Act of Union 1707:
  12. ^ Consultation on the Supreme Court:

External links

  • Official site
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