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ADMIRALTY JURISDICTION

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Originally appearing in Volume V01, Page 208 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ADMIRALTY JURISDICTION. The courts by which, as far as we know, admiralty jurisdiction in civil matters was first exercised were the following. In and throughout England the courts of the several admirals soon combined into one High Court of Admiralty (see ADMIRALTY, HIGH COURT oF). Within the territories of the Cinque Ports the Court of Admiralty of the Cinque Ports exercised a co-ordinate jurisdiction. In certain towns and places there were local courts of vice-admiralty. In Scotland there existed the Scottish High Court of Admiralty, in Ireland the Irish High Court of Admiralty. Of these courts that of the Cinque Ports alone remains untouched. The Scottish court was abolished, and its civil jurisdiction given to the Court of Session and to the courts of the sheriffs by the Court of Session Act 183o-not, however, till a decision given by it and the appeal therefrom to the House of Lords had established a remarkable rule of admiralty law in cases of collision (Hay v. le Neve, 1824, 2 Shaw, Sc. App. Cas. 395). The act states that the Court of Justiciary held cumulative jurisdiction with the Court of Admiralty in criminal matters. The local vice-admiralty courts in England had ceased to do much work when they were abolished by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835; the High Court became, with the other superior courts, a component part of the High Court of Justice by virtue of the Judicature Acts 1873 and 1875. And the Irish court has in like manner become a part of the High Court of Justice in Ireland by virtue of the Judicature Act passed in 1877. As England first, and Great Britain afterwards, acquired colonies and possessions beyond seas, vice-admiralty courts were established. The earliest known was that in Jamaica, established in the year 1662. Some vice- vice Admiralty admiralty courts which were created for prize purposes courts. in the last century were suffered to expire after 1815. In the year 1863, when the act regulating the vice-admiralty courts was passed, there were vice-admiralty courts at Antigua, Bahamas, Barbadoes, Bermuda, British Columbia, British Guiana, British Honduras, Cape of Good Hope,Ceylon,Dominica, Falkland Islands, Gambia River, Gibraltar, Gold Coast, Grenada, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Labuan, Lagos, Lower Canada (otherwise Quebec), Malta, Mauritius, Montserrat, Natal, Nevis, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, New South Wales, New Zealand, Nova Scotia (otherwise Halifax), Prince Edward Island, Queens-land, St Christopher, St Helena, St Lucia, St Vincent, Sierra Leone, South Australia, Tasmania, Tobago, Trinidad, Vancouver's Island, Victoria, Virgin Islands (otherwise Tortola), and Western Australia, and (for matters of the slave trade only) Aden. By the act of 1867 one for the Straits Settlements was added. These courts have been regulated from time to time by the following statutes: 2 and 3 Will. IV. c. 51, 26 and 27 Vict. c. 24 (Vice-Admiralty Courts Act 1863), already cited, and 30 and 31 Vict. C. 45 (Vice-Admiralty Courts Act Amendment Act 1867); and by the slave trade acts, of which the last and consolidating act was that of 1873. In 1890 the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act provided that, except in the colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, St Helena and British Honduras, vice-admiralty courts should be abolished, and a substitution made of colonial courts of admiralty. There is power, however, reserved to the crown to erect through the admiralty in any British possession any vice-admiralty court, except in India or any British possession having a representative legislature. No vice-admiralty court so established can exercise any jurisdiction except for some purpose relating to prize, the royal navy, the slave trade, foreign enlistment, Pacific Islanders' protection, and questions relating to treaties or conventions on international law. Vice-admiralty courts exercised all usual admiralty jurisdiction, and in addition a certain revenue jurisdiction, and jurisdiction over matters of slave trade and prize and under the Pacific Islanders' Protection Act. The appeal from vice-admiralty courts used to lie to the High Court of Admiralty of England, but has been transferred to the king in council. By the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act 189o, already referred to, every court of law in a British possession which is declared by its legislature to be such, or if there Courts oP be no such declaration, which has original unlimited Admiralty. civil jurisdiction, shall be a court of admiralty. There used at one time to be vice-admiralty courts for Calcutta, Madras and Bombay; but by the India High India, Courts Act 1861, § 9, the admiralty jurisdiction is given to the High Courts of these places. Consular courts established in Turkey, China and Japan have had admiralty jurisdiction given to them, and consular by § 12 of the Colonial Admiralty Courts Act any courts. court established by H.M. for the exercise of jurisdic- tion in any place outside H.M.'s dominion may have admiralty jurisdiction granted to it. By the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 a federal supreme court, to be called the High Court of Australia. Australia,is created,and the parliament of the Common-wealth may make laws conferring original jurisdiction on the High Court in matters of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction. There is a court of admiralty in the Isle of Man of which the ts>e of water-bailiff is judge. He is also styled admiral. It is man. said to have jurisdiction in salvage and over other mari- time matters occurring within 3 leagues from the shore. Modern statutes have given admiralty jurisdiction to the City of London Court, the Court of Passage and to the county courts in the following matters : Salvage, where the value of the salved property does not exceed £i000,or the claim for reward £300 ; towage, necessaries and wages, where the claim does not exceed £150 ; claims for damage to cargo, or by collision, up to £300 (and for sums above these prescribed limits by agreement between the parties); and claims arising out of breaches of charter parties and other contracts for carriage of goods in foreign ships, or' torts in respect thereof, up to f300. This jurisdiction is restricted to subjects over which jurisdiction was possessed by the High Court of Admiralty at the time when the first of these acts was passed, except as regards the last branch of it (the "Aline," 1880, 5 Ex. Div. 227 ; R. v. Judge of City of London Court, 1892, 1 Q.B. 272). In analogy with the county court admiralty jurisdiction created in England, a limited admiralty jurisdiction has been given in Ireland to the recorders of certain boroughs and the chairmen of certain quarter sessions ; and in salvage cases, where a county court in England would have jurisdiction, magistrates, recorders and chairmen 9f quarter sessions may have jurisdiction as official arbitrators (Merchant Shipping Act 1894, § 547). In Scotland, admiralty suits in cases not exceeding the value of £25 are exclusively tried in the sheriff's court ; while over that limit the sheriff's court and the Court of Session have concurrent juris- diction. The sheriff has also criminal admiralty jurisdiction, but only as to crimes which he would be competent to try if committed on land (The Court of Session Act 1830, §§ 21 and 22). By an act of 1821 an arbitral jurisdiction in cases of salvage was given to certain commissioners of the Cinque Ports. The appeal from county courts and commissioners is to the High Court of Justice, and is exercised by a divisional court Appeals. of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division. In cases arising within the Cinque Ports there is an optional appeal to the Admiralty Court of the Cinque Ports. The appeal from the High Court of Justice is in ordinary admiralty matters, as in others, to the Court of Appeal, and from thence to the House of Lords. But it is specially provided by the Judicature Act 1891, as it was by the Prize Act 1864, that the "appeal in prize cases shall be to the sovereign in council. The unfortunate provisions of the legislature, giving to the jurisdiction of county courts different money limits in admiralty equity and common law cases, make the distinction between cases coming under the admiralty jurisdiction and other civil cases of practical moment in those courts. Arguments full of learning and research have been addressed to the courts, and weighty decisions have been given, upon questions which would never have arisen if the county courts had not a larger money area of jurisdiction in admiralty cases than they have in other matters (R. v. Judge of City of London Court, 1892, 1 Q.B. 273; the "Zeta," 1893, App. Cas. 468). But as regards the high courts, whether in England, Scotland or Ireland, it is not now necessary to distinguish their civil admiralty jurisdiction from their ordinary civil jurisdiction, except for the purpose of seeing whether there can or cannot be process in rem. Not that every admiralty action can of right be brought in rem, but that no process in rem lies at the suit of a subject unless it be for a matter of admiralty jurisdiction-one, for instance, that could in England have been tried in the High Court of Admiralty. Now these matters of admiralty jurisdiction with process iii rem range themselves under four primary and four supplementary heads. The four primary are damage, salvage, bottomry, wages; and the four supplementary are extensions due to one or other of the statutes of 1840 (Admiralty Court) and 1861 (Admiralty Court Act). They are damage to cargo carried in a ship, necessaries supplied to a ship,.mortgage of ship, and master's claim for wages and disbursements on account of a ship. In all these cases, primary and secondary, the process of which a plaintiff can avail himself for redress, may be either in personam as in other civil suits, or by arrest of the ship, and, in cases of salvage and bottomry, the cargo. Whenever, also, the ship can be arrested, any freight due can also be attached, by arrest of the cargo to the extent only of the freight which it has to pay. For the purpose of ascertaining whether or not process in rem would lie, there have been distinctions as nice, and the line of admiralty jurisdiction has been drawn as carefully, as in the cases of the admiralty jurisdiction of the county courts (the "Theta," 1894, Prob. 280; the " Gas Float Whitton," 1897, App. Cas. 337). There have been similar questions raised in the United States, from De Lovio v. Boit (1815, 2 Gallison, 398), and Ramsay v. Allegre (1827, 12 Wheaton, 611), down to the quite modern cases which will be found quoted in the arguments and judgments in the "Gas Float Whitton." The disciplinary jurisdiction at one time exercised by the Admiralty Court, over both the royal navy and merchant vessels, may be said to be obsolete in time of peace, the last DlsclpNnremnant of it being suits against merchantmen for ary. flying flags appropriate to men-of-war (the "Minerva," 1800, 3 C. Rob. 34), a matter now more effectively provided against by the Merchant Shipping Act 1894. In time of war, however, it was exercised in some instances as long as the Admiralty Court lasted, and is now in consequence exercisable by the High Court of Justice (see Prize below). It was, perhaps, in consequence of its ancient disciplinary jurisdiction that the Admiralty Court was made the court to enforce certain portions of the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870. Finally, appeals from decisions of courts of inquiry, under the Merchant Shipping Act, cancelling or suspending the certificates of officers in the merchant service, may be made to the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice. The admiralty jurisdiction in criminal -matters extends over all crimes committed on board British ships at sea or in tidal waters, even though such tidal waters be well within crim/nat foreign territory (R. v. Anderson, 1868, L.R. x C.C.R. cases. 161), but not over crimes committed on board foreign vessels upon the high seas (R. v. Serva, 1845, x Denison C.C. 104). Whether it extended over crimes committed on foreign ships within territorial waters of the United Kingdom, and whether a zone of three miles round the shores of the United Kingdom was for such purpose territorial water, were the great questions raised in R. v. Keyn (the "Franconia," L.R. 2 Ex. Div. 126), and decided in the negative by the majority of the judges, rightly, as the writer of this article respectfully thinks. Since then, however, the legislature has brought these waters within the jurisdiction of the admiralty by the Territorial Waters Jurisdiction Act 1878. Section 2 runs as follows : " An offence committed by a person, whether he is or is not a British subject, on the open sea within the territorial waters of British dominions, is an offence within the jurisdiction of the admiral, although it may have been committed on board or by means of a foreign ship, and the person who committed such offence may be arrested, tried and punished accordingly." By § 7 the ". jurisdiction of the admiral " is defined as " including the jurisdiction of the admiralty of England or Ireland, or either of such jurisdictions as used in any act of parliament ; and for the purpose of arresting any person charged with an offence declared by this act to be within the jurisdiction of the admiral, the territorial waters adjacent to the United Kingdom, or any other part of her majesty's dominions, shall be deemed to be within the jurisdiction of any judge, magistrate or officer." And " territorial waters of her majesty's dominions" are defined as "in reference to the sea, meaning such part of the sea adjacent to the coast of the United Kingdom, or the coast of some other part of her majesty's dominions, as is deemed by international law to be within the territorial sovereignty of her majesty; and for the purpose of any offence declared by this act to be within the jurisdiction of the admiral, any part of the open sea within one marine league of the coast, measured from low-water mark, shall be deemed to be open sea within the territorial waters of County Local Courts. Civil jurisdiction. her majesty's dominions." As to those portions of the sea and tidal waters which, by reason of their partially land-locked positions, are deemed to be in the body of a county, there is not admiralty jurisdiction, but crimes are tried as if they were committed on land within the same county. Pirates, whatever flag they pretended to fly, were, from 136o onwards, wherever their crimes were committed, subject to the admiralty jurisdiction. The criminal jurisdiction of the admiralty was first exercised by the High Court of Admiralty; and then, by virtue of the Offences at Sea Act 1536, transferred to commissioners appointed under the great seal, among whom were to be the admiral or admirals, his or their deputies. Admiralty sessions were held for this purpose till 1834. Admiralty criminal jurisdiction is now, by virtue of the series of statutes, the Offences at Sea Act 1799, the Central Criminal Court Act 1834, Offences at Sea Act 1844, and the criminal law consolidation acts passed in 1861, exercised by the Central Criminal Court and by the ordinary courts of assize. Special provision for trial in the colonies of offences committed at sea has been made by an act of William III. (1698-1699), the Offences at Sea Act 18o6, and the Admiralty Offences (Colonial) Act 1849. The Admiralty Court had jurisdiction in matters of prize from very early times; and although since the middle of the Prize 17th century the instance, or ordinary civil jurisdiction of the court, has been kept distinct from the prize jurisdiction, they were originally both administered and regarded as being within the ordinary jurisdiction of the lord high admiral. The early records of the admiralty show that the origin of the prize jurisdiction is to be traced to the power given to the court of the admiral to try cases of piracy and " spoil," i.e. captures of foreign ships by English ships. The earliest recorded case of spoil tried before the admiral is in 1357, when the goods of a Portuguese subject, taken at sea by Englishmen from a French ship which had previously spoiled a Portuguese, were awarded by the admiral as good prize to the English captors ; and Edward III. in a letter to the king of Portugal answering a complaint on the subject gives the admiral's decision as a reason for refusing their restoration. During the 16th century a very large part of the business of the Admiralty Court related to spoil and piracy, and the privy council often directed the judge of the court how to deal with the spoil cases, with regard to which foreigners who had suffered from attacks by English ships made petition for redress to the admiral or the council. The spoil suit at this time (causa spolii) was a civil proceeding resulting in a decree absolutoria, dismissing the defendant, or condemnateria, ordering restoration to be made by him. In 1585 the patent of Howard, the lord high admiral, authorized him to issue letters of reprisal against Spain; and an order in council regulating the conduct of those to whom such letters were issued provided by an additional article (1859) that all prizes were to be brought in without breaking of bulk for adjudication by the Admiralty Court. The court was also resorted to at this time by captors, sailing under commissions granted by the allies of England, such as the king of France and the Dutch. About the middle of the 17th century separate sittings of the court for instance and prize business began, perhaps because of the conflicting claims to droits of Charles II. and the duke of York as lord high admiral; and privateering under royal commission took the place of the former irregular "spoiling." The account which Lord Mansfield gave of the records of the Admiralty Court, that there were no prize act books earlier than 1641, or prize sentences earlier than 1648, and that before 1690 the records were in confusion, must be qualified by the correction that there are in existence prize sentences (on paper, not parchment) as early as 1589. Although the courts of common law hardly ever seem to have interfered with or disputed the admiralty prize jurisdiction, its exclusive nature was not finally admitted till 1782; but long previously royal ordinances (1512, 1602) and statutes (1661, giving an alternative of commissioners, 167o, 1706) had given the Admiralty Court the only express jurisdiction over prize. The same statute of Anne and acts of 1739 and 1744 give prizejurisdiction to any court of admiralty, and the courts of admiralty for the colonies and plantations in North America. It has been a disputed question whether the prize jurisdiction of the court was inherent, i.e. coming within the powers given by the general patent of the judge, in which no express mention of it is made, or whether it required a special commission. Upon this subject the judgment of Lord Mansfield in Lindo v. Rodney (1782, Dougl. 612), the judgment of Mr Justice Story in De Lovio v. Boil (1815, 2 Gallison, 398), and Marsden's Select Pleas of the Court of Admiralty (introduction), may be consulted. But the settled practice now and for a long time past has been for a special commission and warrant to be issued for this purpose. In connexion with this it is observable that in 1793 the Admiralty Court of Ireland claimed to exercise prize jurisdiction under its general patent; and it is said to have been the opinion of Sir W. Wynne that the Admiralty Court of Scotland had a similar right (Brown, Civil Law of Admiralty, vol. ii. 211, 212). Any jurisdiction of the Scottish court over prize of war was transferred to the English court by the Court of Session Act 1825, § 57. As to the Irish court, by the Act of Union it was provided that there should remain in Ireland an instance court of admiralty for the determination of causes civil and maritime only. In 1864 the constitution and procedure of prize courts, which had until then been prescribed by occasional acts passed for each war as it arose, were for the first time made permanent by the Naval Prize Act, by which the High Court of Admiralty and every admiralty or vice-admiralty court, or any other court exercising admiralty jurisdiction in British dominions, if for the time being authorized to exercise prize jurisdiction, were made prize courts. The High Court of Admiralty was given jurisdiction throughout British dominions as a prize court, and, as such, power to enforce any order of a vice-admiralty prize court and the judicial committee of the privy council in prize appeals—this power mutatis mutandis being also given to vice-admiralty prize courts. An appeal was given from any prize court to the sovereign in council. Prize courts were given jurisdiction in cases of captures made in a land expedition or an expedition made conjointly with allied forces, and power to give prize salvage on recaptured ships and prize bounty; and a form of procedure was prescribed. The High Court was also given ex-' clusive jurisdiction as a prize court over questions of ransom and petitions of right in prize cases, and power to punish masters of ships under convoy disobeying orders or deserting convoy. By the Naval Discipline Act 1866, power to award damages to convoyed ships exposed to danger by the fault of the officer in charge of the convoy was also given to the High Court. Under other statutes it had power to try questions of booty of war when referred to it by the crown, in the same way as prize causes, and claims of king's ships for salvage on recaptures from pirates, which could be condemned as droits of admiralty, subject to the owner's right to receive them on paying one-eighth of the value, and also power to seize and restore prizes captured by belligerents in violation of British neutrality, or by a ship equipped in British ports contrary to British obligations of neutrality. All jurisdiction of the High Court of Admiralty has since passed to the High Court of Justice, which is made a prize court under the Naval Prize Act, with all the powers of the Admiralty Court in that respect; and all prize causes and matters within the jurisdiction of that court as a prize court are assigned to the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division; and an appeal from it as a prize court lies only to the king in council (Judicature Acts 1873 and 1891). By an act of 1894 further provision is made for the constitution of prize courts in British possessions. A commission, warrant or instruction from the crown or the admiralty may be issued at any time, even in peace; and upon such issue, subject to instructions from the crown, the vice-admiral of the possessions on being satisfied by information from a secretary of state that war has broken out between Great Britain and a foreign state, may make proclamation to that effect, and the commission or warrant comes into effect. The commission or warrant may authorize a vice-admiralty court or colonial court of admiralty to act as a prize court, or establish a vice-admiralty court for that purpose, and may be revoked or altered at any time. The court is authorized to act as a prize court during the war, and shall after its conclusion continue to act as such, and finally dispose of all matters and things arising during the war, including all penalties and forfeitures incurred therein. Rules of court may also be made by order in council for regulating, subject to the Naval Prize Act, the procedure and practice of prize courts under that act, the duties and conduct of their officers and practitioners, and the fees and costs therein (Prize Courts Act 1894, §§a, 3). This latter power has been exercised; and prize rules for the High Court of Justice and the vice-admiralty prize courts were framed in 1898 (Statutory Rules and Orders, 1898).
End of Article: ADMIRALTY JURISDICTION
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