This appellate body, often referred to simply as “the Privy Council“, was established by the Judicial Committee Act of 1833, an Imperial Act of the British Parliament. As appeals from colonial courts were historically ultimately referred to the Sovereign as the final arbiter of justice, such appeals were referred to the King or Queen who considered them upon the advice of His or Her Privy Council. The Privy Council became formalized as a Judicial Committee by the Act of 1833. Since 1876, this final appellate court has been comprised of members of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (formerly the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords) (the final Appellate Court of the United Kingdom itself) as well as of other eminent jurists appointed from among the senior judiciary of other Commonwealth Courts.
Until recently, the Privy Council remained the final appellate court for most Commonwealth countries. Today it still presides in that capacity only for certain final appeals from within the United Kingdom and for appeals from the Courts of Appeal of the Channel Islands, The Isle of Man, The British Overseas Territories, including the Cayman Islands and a few Commonwealth countries, including the Bahamas.
Appeals from the Cayman Islands are governed by the rules set out in the Cayman Islands (Appeals to Privy Council ) 1984 U.K. Statutory Instrument 1984/1151.
There are three broad categories of appeals:
- Appeals as of right (involving civil claims for amounts or property above a certain minimal value or involving proceedings for dissolution or nullity of marriage).
- Appeals at the discretion of the local Court of Appeal (if in the opinion of the Court, the matter is one which, by virtue of its great general or public importance, ought to be referred to Her Majesty in Council for decision).
- Appeals by Special leave (typically in criminal cases where leave is always required).
As the Privy Council is the final appellate court for overseas states, it sits as a matter of convenience only, in Downing Street in London where its Registry is also located.
However, in cases where leave to appeal can or must be obtained from the local Court of Appeal, appeals may be filed with the Court of Appeal registry. In the case of the Cayman Islands, this is at the Courts in George Town, Grand Cayman. Preparation of the record in such cases will be overseen by the local registry for submission to the Privy Council registry.