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British crown

 

British crown

For the public prosecutor in Canada, see Crown attorney. For other uses, see Crown (disambiguation).
For the UK's state prosecution services, also referred to as "the Crown", see Crown Prosecution Service, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, and Public Prosecution Service.
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The Crown is a corporation sole that, in the Commonwealth realms, Crown dependencies and any of its provincial or state sub-divisions, represents the legal embodiment of executive, legislative, or judicial governance. It evolved first in the United Kingdom as a separation of the literal crown and property of the nation state from the person and personal property of the monarch. The concept spread via British colonisation, and is now rooted in the legal lexicon of the other 15 independent realms. In this context it should not be confused with any physical crown, such as those of the British state regalia.

Origins

The concept of the Crown took form under the feudal system. Though not used this way in all countries that had this system, in England and (separately) Scotland, all rights and privileges were ultimately bestowed by the ruler. Land, for instance, was granted by the Crown to lords in exchange for feudal services and they, in turn, granted the land to lesser lords. One exception to this was common socage—owners of land held as socage held it subject only to the Crown. The Crown as ultimate owner of all property also owns any property which has become bona vacantia.

Divisions

Commonwealth realms

The Crown in each of the Commonwealth realms is a similar but separate legal concept. To distinguish the institution's role in one jurisdiction from its place in another, Commonwealth law employs the expression the Crown in Right of [place]; for example, the Crown in Right of the United Kingdom,[1][2][3][4] the Crown in Right of Canada, the Crown in Right of the Commonwealth of Australia, etc. Because both Canada and Australia are federations, there are also crowns in right of each Canadian province and each Australian state; there is the Crown in Right of the Province of British Columbia and Crown in Right of Victoria.[5]

The Crown's powers are exercised—whether by the monarch or by any of his or her representatives—on the advice of the appropriate local ministers, legislature, or judges, none of which may advise the Crown on any matter pertinent to another of the Crown's jurisdictions.

Crown Dependencies

The British Crown (the Crown in Right of the United Kingdom) has a relationship with each of the Crown Dependencies, defined differently in each.

In Jersey, statements by the Law Officers of the Crown define the Crown's operation in that jurisdiction as the Crown in right of Jersey,[6] with all Crown land in the Bailiwick of Jersey belonging to the Crown in right of Jersey and not to the Crown Estate of the United Kingdom.[7]

Legislation in the Isle of Man also defines the Crown in right of the Isle of Man as being separate from the Crown in right of the United Kingdom.[8]

In Guernsey, legislation refers to the Crown in right of the Bailiwick,[9] and the Law Officers of the Crown of Guernsey submitted that "[t]he Crown in this context ordinarily means the Crown in right of the république of the Bailiwick of Guernsey"[10] and that this comprises "the collective governmental and civic institutions, established by and under the authority of the Monarch, for the governance of these Islands, including the States of Guernsey and legislatures in the other Islands, the Royal Court and other courts, the Lieutenant Governor, Parish authorities, and the Crown acting in and through the Privy Council."[11] This constitutional concept is also worded as the Crown in right of the Bailiwick of Guernsey.[12]

In the courts

In criminal proceedings, the prosecuting party is the Crown; generally speaking, this is indicated by having Rex (for a male monarch) or Regina (for a female one) versus the defendant as the standard for naming criminal trials, typically abbreviated R; for example, a criminal case against Smith might be R v Smith, said "the Crown against Smith".

In Scotland, criminal prosecutions are undertaken by the Lord Advocate (or the relevant Procurator Fiscal) in the name of the Crown. Accordingly, the abbreviation HMA is used in the High Court of Justiciary for "His/Her Majesty's Advocate" in place of Rex or Regina, as in HMA v Al Megrahi and Fahima.

In Australia, R is used in the title of criminal trial judgments and The Queen in criminal appeal judgments (i.e., The case name at trial would be R v Smith, if appealed the case name would be Smith v The Queen). Judges usually refer to the prosecuting party as simply 'the prosecution' (only rarely is The Crown used in the text, and never R) in the text of their opinion. In civil cases where the Crown is a party, it is a customary courtesy to list the appropriate government Minister as the party instead.

In New Zealand court reporting, news reports will refer to the prosecuting lawyer (often called a Crown prosecutor, as in Canada and the United Kingdom) as representing the Crown, usages such as "For the Crown, Joe Bloggs argued..." being common.

This practice of using the seat of sovereignty as the injured party is analogous with criminal cases in the United States, where the format is "the People" or "the State v. [defendant]" (e.g., People of the State of New York v. LaValle or Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Brady) under the doctrine of popular sovereignty. In Federal criminal cases, it is "United States v. [defendant]," as in United States v. Nixon.

The Crown can also be a plaintiff or defendant in civil actions to which the government of the Commonwealth realm in question is a party. Such Crown proceedings are often subject to specific rules and limitations, such as the enforcement of judgments against the Crown.

See also

References

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