Work of the King’s Bench Division

The King’s Bench Division (KBD) is one of the three Divisions of the High Court, together with the Chancery Division and Family Division. The President of the King’s Bench Division is the head of the KBD.

It is the biggest of the three High Court Divisions – its full complement is 71 High Court Judges – and has the most varied jurisdiction.

Outside London, the work of the KBD is administered in provincial offices known as district registries. In London, the work is administered in the Central Office at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Cases are heard by High Court Judges and Masters, and Deputy High Court Judges and Masters. At its full complement, 71 High Court Judges are assigned to the King’s Bench Division.

The King’s Bench Division deals with ‘common law’ civil claims – actions relating to contract, except those specifically allocated to the Chancery Division, and claims relating to civil wrongs, known as ‘torts’.

Part of its civil work is handling contract and tort (civil wrongs) cases which are unsuitable for the County Courts for reasons of cost or complexity.

Contract cases include claims for failure to pay for goods and service, and claims for breach of contract. Tort claims include:

  • Claims for negligence
  • Claims for defamation and misuse of private information
  • Claims for wrongs against the person, for example assault and false imprisonment
  • Claims for wrongs against property, such as trespass

Judges in the King’s Bench Division also preside over more specialist matters, such as applications for judicial review – a type of case which seeks to establish if decisions made by the government and other public bodies have been made in the correct way.

Judges of the King’s Bench Division also hear the most important criminal cases in the Crown Court, and will travel around the country to do so. They also sit in the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) on appeals from convictions or sentences passed in the Crown Court.

They may also sit in the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) and the Special Immigration Appeals Tribunal.

Specialist courts

The KBD includes within it a number of specialist courts: Administrative, Admiralty, Commercial, Planning, Technology and Construction, and Civil Lists.

The Administrative Court oversees the decision-making of the lower courts and tribunals, and hears applications for judicial review of decisions of public bodies. It includes the Planning Court.

The Admiralty Court is the oldest of the KBD’s specialist courts and deals principally with the legal consequences of collisions at sea, salvage, and damage to cargoes.

The Commercial Court has a wide jurisdiction over banking and international credit and trade matters; the judges of this court can arbitrate in commercial disputes. Circuit Commercial Courts operate in 8 regional centres throughout England and Wales.

The Technology and Construction Court covers areas including traditional building cases, adjudication enforcement, arbitration and professional negligence claims, and engineering and Information Technology disputes. In addition to London, the work of the Technology and Construction Court is carried out in a number of Regional Centres around the country.

There is also a specialist Media and Communications List (MAC list) which deals with the main media torts (defamation, misuse of private information and claims under the Data Protection Act) and similar or related claims including malicious falsehood and harassment arising from publication or threatened publication by the print or broadcast media, online, on social media, or in speech.