Northern Ireland Court System
The structure in Northern Ireland isn’t too dissimilar to the England and Wales system. However, there are some differences:
• Appeals from the Magistrates’ Court are directed to the County Court, instead of the Crown Court.
• There is no Jury in cases that involve terrorist-type offences, and only the Judge decides whether the defendant is guilty or not.
• The Court of Appeal is located in Belfast, at the Royal Courts of Justice, and hears appeals in criminal matters referred by the Crown Court, as well as civil matters that have been referred by the High Court.
• County Court judges may sit in the Crown Court to hear criminal cases. District Judges deal only with civil cases.
The Structure of the Northern Ireland Courts Service (starting from the top)
The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom. It hears appeals on points of law in cases of major importance.
The Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal hears appeals on points of law in civil and criminal cases from all courts.
The High Court
The High Court hears complex or important civil cases in three Divisions:
• Queens Bench Division
• Chancery Division
• Family Division
The High Court also hears appeals from County Courts
The Crown Court
The Crown Court hears all serious criminal cases
County Courts (Including Family Care Centres)
These courts hear a wide range of civil actions and appeals from Magistrates Courts. Within the County Courts are the Small Claims Courts who hear consumer claims and minor civil cases.
Magistrate Courts (Including Youth Courts and Family Proceedings Courts)
Magistrates Courts conduct preliminary hearings in more serious criminal cases. They also hear and determine less serious criminal cases, cases involving juveniles, and some civil and domestic cases including family proceedings.
Coroners Courts investigate the circumstances of sudden, violent or unnatural deaths.
The Enforcement of Judgements Office
This department enforces money and other judgements.