High Court’s Jurisdiction in Relation to Criminal Proceedings

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

This project is complete. We await the Government's response to our recommendations

The High Court has supervisory power over the Crown Court, but it is limited. It does not include “matters relating to trial on indictment”. The reason for this limitation is that it is in the interests of justice for trials to proceed without being delayed by appeals and applications to the High Court.

The problem lies in knowing what “matters relating to trial on indictment” means. The lack of clarity has led to uncertainty and needless litigation. There are also some situations in which a party to a trial cannot challenge a ruling but they ought to be able to.

The project

We published our recommendations for reform, with a draft Bill, on 27 July 2010.

In July 2005 we published a discussion paper, setting out the preliminary issues.

In October 2007 we published a consultation paper in which we proposed removing appeal from the Crown Court to the High Court by way of case stated. This proposal met with broad agreement.

We also proposed getting rid of the High Court’s supervisory power of judicial review over the Crown Court in criminal proceedings, and creating a new statutory appeal from the Crown Court to the Court of Appeal. Consultees thought this proposal had a number of difficulties, and we have therefore looked at it again.

Our recommendations

We recommend:

  • abolishing appeal by case stated from the Crown Court to the High Court in criminal proceedings
  • reforming the law on judicial review of the Crown Court in criminal proceedings so that judicial review of decisions in a trial on indictment is barred from the time the case goes to the Crown Court for trial to the end of the trial, with an exception where the judge refuses bail
  • a new statutory appeal for a child or young person, where the trial judge refuses to restrict reporting to protect his or her identity, and
  • a new statutory appeal where the trial judge’s ruling entails a real and immediate risk to a person’s life.


Documents and downloads

Project details

Area of law

Criminal law


Professor David Ormerod QC