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The Court of King's Bench (or Court of Queen's Bench during the reign of a Queen) was one of the senior courts of common law in Englandmarker, and the most powerful of them. In its early days the King's Bench would sit wherever the King was, but by Magna Carta in 1215, it was required to be fixed in one place. It sat thereafter, for six and a half centuries, in Westminster Hall.

In times of plague the King's Bench left London; in 1665 it sat in St Albansmarker.

The Court was formally known as The Court of the King Before the King Himself, although after the mediƦval period the sovereign did not in practice sit in the Court. (King James I did seek to sit on hearings in the King's Bench but it was a brief experiment.)

The president of the Court was the Lord Chief Justice.

Jurisdiction

The King's Bench was the principal court of criminal jurisdiction, though in practice the criminal jurisdiction was exercised at the assizes, leaving the court in Westminster Hall to deal with civil matters.

In civil matters the King's Bench initially had a limited number of causes of action in tort, which included cases of trespass and assault. However by a series of legal fictions (in particular the "Bill of Middlesex" procedure), the King's Bench justices widened their own jurisdiction until they could hear any civil claim. This made the King's Bench the most powerful of the courts. The general civil jurisdiction was regularised only under King William IV.

An important jurisdiction of the King's Bench was the restraint of unlawful action by public authority. In this the King's Bench issued prerogative writs, by which it restrained or compelled other jurisdictions and authorities, including the local justices and boroughs. From the King's Bench also issued the writ of habeas corpus. Lord Mansfield as Lord Chief Justice was instrumental in ending slavery in England by a 1772 judgement in King's Bench.

Abolition

The Court of Queen's Bench was abolished in 1875 by the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873. The Court's jurisdiction passed to a new High Court of Justicemarker and specifically to the Queen's Bench Division of that court.

See also




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