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The Judicature Acts 1873-75

The Judicature Acts 1873-75 rationalised the position. They created one system of courts by amalgamating the common law courts and the court of equity to form the Supreme Court of Judicature which would administer common law and equity.

The Supreme Court of Judicature consists of the High Court divided into divisions known as the Queen's Bench Division, Chancery Division, and the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division (re-named the Family Division in 1970 and the work reassigned); the Court of Appeal; and, since the Supreme Court Act 1981, the Crown Court. Each Division exercises both legal and equitable jurisdiction. Thus any issue can be adjudicated in any Division; and any point of law or equity can be raised and determined in any Division; but, for the sake of administrative convenience, cases are allocated to the Divisions according to their general subject-matter. Thus the court "is now not a Court of Law or a Court of Equity, it is a Court of complete jurisdiction." (Pugh v Heath (1882), per Lord Cairns.)

It was forseen that a court which applied the rules both of common law and of equity would face a conflict where the common law rules would produce one result, and equity another. Section 25 of the Judicature Act 1873 provided that if there was any conflict between these principles, then equity was to prevail. However, this did not fuse the principles of common law and equity, which still remain as separate bodies of rules. "The two streams have met and still run in the same channel, but their waters do not mix" (Maitland).

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