The Legal Year
The legal year, in English law as well as in some other common law jurisdictions and I include ours in Gibraltar is the calendar during which the judges sit in court. It is traditionally divided into periods called “terms”. Last Friday Cruzlaw was amongst those participating and enjoying the pomp & circumstance, Nick Cruz, Arcelia Hernandez Cordero and Jemma Emerson attended the ceremony.
In England, the year is divided into four terms:
Between terms, the courts are in vacation, and no trials or appeals are heard in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. The legal terms apply to the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court only, and so have no application to the Crown Court, County Court, or magistrates’ courts. The longest vacation period is between July and October. The dates of the terms are determined in law by a practice direction in the Civil Procedure Rules. The Hilary term was formerly from the 11th to the 31st of January, during which superior courts of England were open.
The legal year commences at the beginning of October, with a ceremony dating back to the Middle Ages in which the judges arrive in a procession from the Temple Bar to Westminster Abbey for a religious service, followed by a reception known as the Lord Chancellor’s breakfast, which is held in Westminster Hall. Although in former times the judges walked the distance from Temple to Westminster, they now mostly arrive by car. The service is held by the Dean of Westminster with the reading performed by the Lord Chancellor.
The ceremony dates back to 1897 and has been held continuously since with the exception of the years 1940 to 1946 because of the Second World War and 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 1953 it was held in St Margaret’s Church because Westminster Abbey was still decorated for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.