1. Civil appeals
The Supreme Court of Judicature, established in 1875, incorporated the existing central law courts, common law and equity, into a new High Court of Justice, with a separate Appeal Court. Until 1966, the Appeal Court dealt with civil cases only, hearing civil appeals from the High Court and, after 1934, appeals directly from county courts. It was only subject to further appeal to the House of Lords in certain cases, approved by the Court of Appeal itself or by the Appeals Committee of the House of the Lords. It also heard appeals from certain administrative bodies, such as the Lands Tribunal, the Patents Appeal Tribunal and the Income Tax Commissioners.
Most records held here relating to appeal cases give very few details about the original case and only briefly note the decision on appeal, without giving reasons. Written arguments were not submitted to the Appeal Court but the case was argued out in court. Members of the Court were supplied with the Notice of Appeal and the existing pleadings, orders and written evidence that had been submitted to the court appealed from, together with transcripts of verbal evidence (judge's notes in county court cases) and the judgment, but these were then filed by type or destroyed. Following the recommendations of the Report of the Committee on Legal Records (Cmnd 3084, 1966), High Court records which are arranged by type - for example orders, pleadings or affidavits - are no longer transferred to The National Archives in bulk, but comprise a 2% random sample of all cases together with certain other cases considered to be of historical interest. Such records are now in J 83 and J 84 and consist of dossiers containing all the preservable documents in the case. Confidential papers are closed for various periods.
Those for 1951-1980 have been published on microfiche by HMSO, together with an index of plaintiffs and defendants available at The British Library. The Law Society Library also holds a copy of the index and will provide copies of individual judgements for a fee.
Significant cases are likely to have been published in The Law Reports, giving the basic facts and arguments and the reason the court may have given for its judgment. Law reports were also published in The Times (from 1884), which can be viewed online at The National Archives. The Guildhall Library holds various collections of published law reports.
If the case came to the Court of Appeal from Chancery Division of the High Court, an entry to this effect and the decision reached by the Appeal Court, for the period 1875-1955 should be recorded in the Entry Books of Decrees and Orders in J 15. Registrars' Court Books and Minutes Books in J 56, sampled after 1927, may also record proceedings before the Court of Appeal. One surviving minute book of the Court of Appeal for 1882-1884 in J 60/25 relates mainly to Queen's Bench Division cases. If the case came to the Court of Appeal from Queen's/King's Bench Division or Exchequer Division before 1880, judgements by the Appeal Court for 1875-1906 are recorded in chronological order in the Rule Books in KB 25 - most volumes have internal indexes but entries are brief and give little detail about the case. The Rule Books also contain appeals from other courts, mainly county court cases relating to workmen's compensation after 1897.
Judgements for 1907-1926 are recorded in the Order Books in J 70 - no order books have been kept after 1926.
Notices of Appeals to the Court of Appeal, together with copies of the original judgment appealed from, 1918-1926 (and notices of interlocutory appeals, that is, appeals against procedural orders in the case, rather than the final judgment, for 1918-1920) are in J 69. They may be endorsed with the Court of Appeal's ruling or include a copy of its final order. County Court cases include judge's notes. Notices of final appeal had to be submitted within 6 weeks and those of interlocutory appeals within 14 days, but did not have to give the grounds of appeal, unless from a county court. After 1927, only a 2% sample of appeal notices have been kept in J 69.
Notices of appeal from county courts in workmen's compensation cases for 1910-1951 are in J 71, with Order Books in J 72 - before 1910, orders in such cases are in KB 25 and J 70. Appeals relating to ecclesiastical benefices, heard by a judge of the Supreme Court and the archbishop of the province, are in J 142.
2. Criminal appeals: the Court of Criminal Appeal, and the Appeal Court
The Court of Criminal Appeal was established in 1907 and empowered to hear appeals in criminal cases, both on the verdict and on the sentence. Before 1907 rights of appeal were much more restricted and heard by the Court for the Consideration of Crown Cases Reserved, although that court's order books in KB 31 only survive for 1853-1859 and the pleadings of the court in KB 30, for 1848-1888, do not give the results of cases.
Registers of the Court of Criminal Appeal, from 1908 but with a gap from 1910-1913, are in J 81 and give the name of the applicant, date and place of conviction, the offence, sentence, type of appeal, whether leave to appeal and legal aid was granted and the outcome. Selected case files, from 1956, with a few files from 1945, are in J 82 and include formal notices of Appeal and transcripts (shorthand notes) of the original trial. Some earlier files, of cases originally heard by the Central Criminal Court that went on to appeal, such as the Crippen case of 1910 and the Casement case of 1916 are in CRIM 1.
Transcripts of proceedings in selected criminal cases, brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions, some of which went on to appeal, are in DPP 4.
In 1966 the Court of Criminal Appeal was merged with the Appeal Court, sitting in two divisions, one civil and the other criminal.
A selection of notebooks of judges in Court of Appeal and Court of Criminal Appeal proceedings are in J 130. Apart from one relating to the trial of Roger Casement in 1916, these date from 1947.
3. Appeals to the House of Lords
Records relating to cases heard by the House of Lords on appeal are held by the Parliamentary Archives. However, copies of judgements made by the House of Lords on appeal from the Court of Appeal, together with petitions of appeal, for 1885-1906 are in KB 34.
The highest court of appeal is now the Supreme Court.
4. Further reading
Lord Justice Cohen, 'Jurisdiction, practice and procedure of the Court of Appeal', Cambridge Law Journal, vol. 11, no. 1 (1951)