admiralty, court of
admiralty, court of defined in 1939 yearadmiralty, court of - Admiralty, court of;
admiralty, court of - English court of law which existed as a separate entity until 1875, and is now represented by the Probate, Divorce, and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice. In the reign of Edward III the various admirals had certain rights of jurisdiction, courts held in their names being presided over by their deputies. Soon after 1400 there was only one admiral, the lord high admiral, for all England, and consequently only one court. Its duties were to punish crimes committed oil the high seas, to decide questions about prizes, and, as trade developed, to settle disputes about contracts, ownership, collisions, salvage, and the like.
Several Acts of Parliament, among them one in 1389 and another two years later, laid down the limits to the growing powers of the Admiralty court, which had encroached on the domain of the courts of common law, but in the time of James I there were again disputes about the extent of its jurisdiction, and throughout the 17th century its importance waned. But the many battles and skirmishes in which British ships were engaged in the 18th and early 19th centuries resulted in a great renewal of jurisdiction by the court in the matter of prizes. During the Napoleonic wars well over 1,000 prize cases were regularly heard in the course of a single year. In 1841 and 1860 Acts extended its powers but only in civil cases, for since 1834 it had been deprived of criminal jurisdiction. Under the Act of 1873, which reorganized the whole judicial system, this court was united with others to form the Probate, Divorce, and Admiralty Division of the High Court. In time of war the president of this division is appointed president of the Prize Court, which administers the law of nations, as the Court of Admiralty did during the Napoleonic wars. Scotland had an Admiralty court until 1831 and Ireland one until 1877. Vice-admirals' courts, local institutions, existed in England -until 1835. They were also set up in most of the British colonies, Jamaica having one in 1662, but nearly all of them were abolished in 1890, their jurisdiction being transferred to other courts.
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