Structure of the Courts & Tribunals system

Rather than being designed from scratch, our courts system has evolved and developed over 1,000 years. This has led to a complicated and, in places, confusing structure.  

Different types of case are dealt with in specific courts, and have different routes into the Court of Appeal: 

  • All criminal cases will start in the Magistrates’ court, but more serious criminal matters are sent to the Crown Court. Appeals from the Crown Court will go to the Court of Appeal Criminal Division and potentially the UK Supreme Court.
  • Civil cases will usually start in the County Court. Again, appeals will go to the High Court and then to the Court of Appeal – although to different divisions of those courts. 
  • The tribunals system has its own structure for dealing with cases and appeals, but decisions from different chambers of the Upper Tribunal, and the Employment Appeals Tribunal, may also go to the Court of Appeal. 

The courts structure covers England and Wales; the tribunals system covers England, Wales and, in some cases, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

View a diagram setting out the courts and tribunals in England and Wales.