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Modern Maritime Law Volume 1: Jurisdiction and Risks

1 THE JURISDICTION OF THE ADMIRALTY COURT 1 HISTORICAL OVERVIEW 1.1 ORIGINS 1 The High Court of Admiralty, presently located at the Rolls Building, was an instrument of the Lord High Admiral and had jurisdiction to administer justice in respect of piracy or spoil and other offences committed upon the sea. 2 The judge of the court was a deputy of the Lord High Admiral, and civilian Admiralty practitioners practising civil law, as derived from Roman law, ran the court. Therefore, the practice and procedure of the court were founded upon civil law concepts, and its jurisdiction was separate from that of the common law courts. However, apart from possessing criminal jurisdiction, the Admiral began, gradually, to hear disputes also in all civil matters connected with the sea. The court asserted the highest and fullest jurisdiction over everything that might happen upon the high seas. This resulted in its usurping the jurisdiction of the common law courts in matters arising in inland tidal waters and gave rise to a conflict between the Admiralty and the common law courts. 3

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