Magistrates Law Courts, Gibraltar
Following the seizure of Gibraltar in 1704 and its cession to the British Crown, the first court to be created by Letters Patent was on the 4 November 1720. This is generally known as the First Charter of Justice. As a conquered territory, the law in Gibraltar theoretically remained Spanish as the First Charter of Justice laid down that the law in civil matters was to be that of Spain. In 1740, the Second Charter of Justice substituted English Law for Spanish Law with the declaration,
“We will that the Laws of England be the measure of Justice between the Parties.” Between 1740 and 1830, two further Charters of Justice variously added jurisdictions or amended court structures. The Fifth Charter of Justice, Letters Patent dated 1 September 1830, established many features of the structure to the court system that is still in place today. It introduced the principle of the independence of the judiciary, the Supreme Court and appeals to the Privy Council.
The Fifth Charter of Justice was amended by Order in Council on the 30 April 1877 to create the title of Chief Justice.Further jurisdictions for Divorce, Matrimonial, Admiralty and the Court of Protection were added between 1888 and 1968. The new constitution for Gibraltar in 1969 created the Court of Appeal, with a further right of appeal in civil matters to Her Majesty in Council. In criminal matters, Her Majesty may be petitioned by leave of the Privy Council. It is not known exactly when Coroner’s Courts first operated in Gibraltar. They certainly operated before the application of the 1837 English Coroners’ Inquests Expenses Act. The first local ordinance to regulate their jurisdiction and duties was the Coroner’s Ordinance, Gibraltar, 1889.