Which levels of other courts are its decisions binding or not binding on, if English courts don’t actually appeal to it?

To rephrase the question for greater clarity: Essentially, of courts that don’t get appealed from to the JCPC (ie most typical domestic English courts), which are nonetheless bound by its decisions?

1 Answer 1


The JCPC's appellate jurisdiction

The courts/jurisdictions from which the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) hears appeals is listed here. I will just list a few:

  • The High Court of Chivalry
  • Jersey (a Crown dependency)
  • Antigua and Barbuda (with leave from the lower court in the Commonwealth)
  • The Bahamas (with leave from the lower court in the Commonwealth)
  • The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (an independent republic within the Commonwealth)
  • Bermuda (an overseas territory)
  • Cayman Islands (an overseas territory)
  • Dhekelia (a sovereign base area in Cyprus)

Precedential value of old JCPC judgments in jurisdictions that no longer have the JCPC at the apex

For jurisdictions that previously had appeals to the JCPC, most now are of the view that their trial and intermediate appellate courts are still bound by the JCPC holdings until the jurisdiction's now highest court says otherwise (Oliver Jones, "Do the Law Lords Bind Lower Courts?" (2013) 87 Australian Law Journal 383; Bank of Montreal v. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (1990), 44 B.C.L.R. (2d) 247: "[the] decision of the Judicial Committee, rendered while Canadian appeals were still carried to the Privy Council, is binding upon us").

Precedential value of "foreign" JCPC decisions

Many jurisdictions (e.g. Canada, Barbados, probably New Zealand) also treated/treat "foreign" Privy Council decisions (meaning coming to the JCPC from a different source jurisdiction) as binding, to the extent that there is no difference in the applicable law (Jones, p. 387). The precedent at issue in Bank of Montreal (cited above), for example, was one that arose from an appeal from the West Indian Court of Appeal affirming a judgment of the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago. It was held to be binding in Canada in 1990, long after Canadian appeals to the JCPC were abolished.

Precedential value of JCPC judgments in England and Wales

The normal approach is as follows (Willers v. Joyce and another, [2016] UKSC 44, paragraph 12):

  1. Decisions of the JCPC "cannot be binding on any judge of England and Wales."
  2. When the JCPC has decided based on common law, these judgments should be normally regarded by any judge, including justices of the Supreme Court "as being of great weight and persuasive value."
  3. The JCPC should regard itself as bound to follow decisions of the House of Lords or Supreme Court when applying the law of England and Wales.

However, given the overlap in composition of the JCPC and the UK Supreme Court, and the fact that the president of both is the same person, there is a procedure by which a party can ask the JCPC overrule previous decisions of the House of Lords or Supreme Court and bind domestic courts:

In any case where the Practice Direction applies, I would hold that the following procedure should apply from now on. The registrar of the JCPC will draw the attention of the President of the JCPC to the fact there may be such an invitation. The President can then take that fact into account when deciding on the constitution and size of the panel which is to hear the appeal, and, provided that the point at issue is one of English law, the members of that panel can, if they think it appropriate, not only decide that the earlier decision of the House of Lords or Supreme Court, or of the Court of Appeal, was wrong, but also can expressly direct that domestic courts should treat the decision of the JCPC as representing the law of England and Wales.

  • One potentially complicated issue would be the priority of a Privy council precedent from a jurisdiction that previously appealed cases to it, like New Zealand prior to 2003, relative to non-apex court precedents decided after that date.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 22:48
  • Would a Privy Council ruling from a decisino in say the Cayman Islands bind a court in say, Jersey?
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 22:49

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