Jurisdictions of the United Kingdom

The Jurisdictions of the United Kingdom comprise three legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, namely:

  • England & Wales,
  • Scotland, and
  • Northern Ireland.

Although Scotland and Northern Ireland form part of the United Kingdom and share Westminster as a primary legislature, they have separate legal systems. (Even though Scotland became part of the UK over 300 years ago, Scots law has remained remarkably distinct from English law). The UK's highest civil appeal court is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, whose decisions are binding on all three UK jurisdictions, as in Donoghue v Stevenson, a Scots case that forms the basis of the UK's law of negligence.[1]

"Great Britain" means England, Wales, Scotland, their adjacent territorial waters and the islands of Orkney and Shetland, the Hebrides and, by virtue of the Island of Rockall Act 1972, Rockall. "United Kingdom" means Great Britain and Northern Ireland and their adjacent territorial waters, but not the Isle of Man, nor the Channel Islands, whose independent status was discussed in Rover International Ltd. v Canon Film Sales Ltd. (1987)[2] and Chloride Industrial Batteries Ltd. v F. & W. Freight Ltd. (1989) [3]. "British Islands" – but not "British Isles" – means the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

The first schedule of the Interpretation Act 1978, defines the following terms: "British Islands", "England", and "United Kingdom". The use of the term "British Isles" is virtually obsolete in statutes and, when it does appear, it is taken to be synonymous with "British Islands". For interpretation purposes, England includes a number of specified elements:

  • Wales and Berwick Act 1746, section 3 (entire Act now repealed) formally incorporated Wales and Berwick-upon-Tweed into England. But section 4 Welsh Language Act 1967 provided that references to England in future Acts of Parliament should no longer include Wales (see now Interpretation Act 1978, Schedule 3, part 1). But Dicey & Morris say (at p28) "It seems desirable to adhere to Dicey's (the original) definition for reasons of convenience and especially of brevity. It would be cumbersome to have to add "or Wales" after "England" and "or Welsh" after "English" every time those words are used."
  • the "adjacent islands" of the Isle of Wight and Anglesey are a part of England and Wales by custom, while Harman v Bolt (1931)[4] expressly confirms that Lundy is a part of England.
  • the "adjacent territorial waters" by virtue of the Territorial Waters Jurisdiction Act 1878 and the Continental Shelf Act 1964 as amended by the Oil and Gas Enterprise Act 1982.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] UKHL [1932] UKHL
  2. ^ (1987) 1 WLR 1597
  3. ^ 1989) 1 WLR 823
  4. ^ (1931) 47 TLR 219