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High Court of Justiciary

The High Court of Judiciary is Scotland's supreme criminal court. No appeals may be made to the House of Lords, the UK's highest court. It is a court of the first instance and also court of appeal and sits only in Parliament House in Edinburgh.

The judges are the same ones who sit in the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court. The Court of Session's Lord President is the High Court's Lord Justice-General. Also, the Lord Justice-Clerk holds such an office in both courts. The remaining judges are referred to as Lords Commissioners of Justiciary in the context of this court, but are normally called Lords of Council and Session or Senators of the College of Justice, their Court of Session titles.

The Court has jurisdiction over all crimes in Scotland unless restricted by statute. In practice, however, the Court generally deals with serious crimes such as homicide.

First Instance Jurisdiction

When sitting as a court of the first instance, that is, when hearing a case for the first time rather than on appeal, a single Lord Commissioner of Justiciary presides, and a jury of fifteen individuals is used. Under the Scottish legal system, the jury need not return a unanimous verdict; a majority verdict may also be used.

Appellate Jurisdiction

Appeals may be made to the High Court from the lower courts in criminal cases. Also, an appeal may be made if the High Court itself earlier heard the case on the first instance. When the appeal is against a sentence, two judges sit, and when it is against a conviction, three judges.

There is no further appeal after the High Court's decision, in contrast to the Court of Session, from which appeal is possible to the House of Lords.

See also: List of Senators of the College of Justice