Key dates

1327 - First Justices of the Peace
Appointed by parliamentary statute

1748 - Courts of requests
Parliament begins passing Acts on a regular basis to establish local courts of requests

1846 - Small Debts Act
Replaces old courts of requests with a new network of county courts to deal with minor civil matters

1848 - Summary Jurisdiction Act
Gives petty sessions powers to deal with a broader range of criminal charges. Further powers and rules laid down by Acts in 1857, 1878, 1881, 1884, 1889 and 1899

1873 and 1875 - Judicature Acts
Unifies the higher courts into a Supreme Court of Judicature

1876 - Appellate Jurisdiction Act
Reforms the House of Lords' function as the highest court of appeal in the land

1880 - Common Pleas and Exchequer divisions abolished
Common Pleas and Exchequer divisions within the High Court of Justice are abolished leaving three main divisions: Queen's Bench, Chancery and Probate, Divorce and Admiralty

1882- New Royal Courts of Justice
The new law courts, now called the Royal Courts of Justice, formerly based in Westminster Hall, open in The Strand

1907 - Criminal Appeal Act
Creates the right of appeal against criminal convictions; new Court of Criminal Appeal is established

1919 - Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act
Allows women to be created Justices of the Peace for the first time

1949 - Justices of the Peace Act
Updates organisation of magistrates' courts

1949 - Legal Aid and Advice Act
Begins the system of legal aid

1971 - Courts Act
Abolishes courts of assize and quarter sessions, replacing them with the crown court

2003 - Courts Act
Creates Her Majesty's Courts Service

2005 - Constitutional Reform Act
Establishes a Supreme Court

Related information

Current parliamentary business on the topic of courts