High Court

The High Court has three divisions, which hear different types of case:

  • Chancery
  • Queen’s Bench
  • Family

All three divisions have an appellate jurisdiction, which means that they hear appeals from other courts, as well as hearing “first instance” cases.



The Chancery Division of the High Court is presided over by The Chancellor of the High Court, with cases heard by 18 High Court judges. There is some overlap with the Queen’s Bench Division’s civil jurisdiction; however, certain matters are specifically assigned to the Chancery Division.

The principal business of the Chancery Division is:

  • corporate and personal insolvency disputes;
  • business, trade and industry disputes;
  • the enforcement of mortgages;
  • intellectual property matters, copyright and patents;
  • disputes relating to trust property; and
  • contentious probate (relating to wills and inheritance) actions.

Most Chancery business is dealt with in the Royal Courts of Justice in London and in eight provincial High Court centres.

The Chancery Division also contains the Patents Court (which deals with patents and registered designs) and the Companies Court (which deals mainly with the compulsory liquidation of companies).


Queen’s Bench Division (QBD)

The President of the Queen’s Bench Division heads the QBD, which has both a criminal and civil jurisdiction.

Cases are heard by the President, and 73 High Court judges.

Judges who hear civil cases in the Queen’s Bench Division deal with ‘common law’ business – actions relating to contract, except those specifically allocated to the Chancery Division. They also hear civil wrongs, known as tort.

Contract cases include failure to pay for goods and service and breach of contract, while QBD tort cases include:

  • Wrongs against the person e.g. defamation of character and libel
  • Wrongs against property e.g. trespass
  • Wrongs which may be against people or property – e.g. negligence or nuisance.

QBD judges also preside over more specialist matters, such as applications for judicial review – a type of case which seeks to establish if a government decision has been made in the correct way.

Judges of the Queen’s Bench Division hear the most important criminal cases in the Crown Court, and will travel around the country to do so.

They also sit in the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

The Queen’s Bench Division also contains :

  • The Commercial Court
  • The Admiralty Courts
  • The Mercantile Court, and administers
  • The Technology and Construction Court


The Commercial and Admiralty Courts

The same judges sit in the Commercial and Admiralty Courts, which share administration and a common procedure.

The Commercial Court deals with claims relating to the transactions of trade and commerce, including:

  • commercial agreements
  • import and export
  • carriage of goods by sea, land and air
  • banking and financial services
  • insurance and reinsurance
  • markets and exchanges
  • commodities
  • construction of ships, and
  • agency, arbitration and competition matters.

The Admiralty Court has exclusive jurisdiction over certain maritime claims (including the arrest of ships, collisions and salvage). It also deals with mortgage claims, limitation actions, ownership claims and cargo claims.

Disputes in the Commercial and Admiralty Courts are largely international in flavour, with the vast majority of cases having at least one defendant or claimant from outside England and Wales.


The Mercantile Court

The Mercantile Court deals with business disputes which require specialist judges but fall outside the remit of the Commercial Court or the Chancery Division.

It provides a regional court service to national and international businesses in a similar way to the Commercial Court in London.

The Mercantile Court will only deal with claims that:

  • relate to a commercial or business matter in a broad sense
  • are not required to proceed in the Chancery Division or in another specialist court
  • would benefit from the expertise of a mercantile judge

The majority of Mercantile Courts deal with cases that relate to commercial or professional disputes over contracts or torts (civil wrongdoing) – or to issues arising from arbitration claims and awards, such as:

  • sale of goods
  • restraint of trade
  • hire purchase
  • agency
  • banking and financial services
  • guarantees
  • carriage of goods
  • insurance and reinsurance
  • markets and exchanges
  • general commercial contracts – eg distribution and franchising
  • professional negligence in a commercial context – eg accountants, financial intermediaries and advisers and solicitors

There are no maximum or minimum financial limits upon claims.


The Technology and Construction Court

The TCC is a specialist court which deals primarily with disputes in the field of technology and construction.

This includes:

  • traditional building cases
  • adjudication enforcement
  • engineering and technology disputes
  • professional negligence claims
  • claims by or against local authorities concerning the development of land
  • dilapidations claims
  • nuisance claims
  • fire claims
  • IT disputes (relating to both hardware and software), and
  • challenges to arbitrators’ decisions in respect of any of the above matters.

TCC cases are managed and heard by specialist judges in London and at centres throughout England and Wales. The cases are allocated either to High Court Judges, Senior Circuit Judges, Circuit Judges or Recorders, both in London and at regional centres outside London.



Judges who sit in the High Court can hear all cases relating to children and have an exclusive jurisdiction in wardship – a type of court order which gives custody of a minor (under 18) child to the court, with day-to-day care carried out by an individual(s) or local authority.

Judges in the High Court also hear appeals from family proceedings courts and cases transferred from the county courts or family proceedings courts.