Most cases involving civil or commercial matters should be initiated in the Supreme Court of Gibraltar. The Supreme Court is divided into various jurisdictions but due to the size of the jurisdiction, there is only one registry and two judges dealing with all matters. Further guidance can be obtained from:
The Supreme Court Registry
277 Main Street
In cases involving small debts of under £1.000, a claim can be commenced in the Court of First Instance, also at 277 Main Street, Gibraltar.
As mentioned above, most civil and commercial claims should be dealt with by the Supreme Court of Gibraltar. Small claims of under £1.000 can be dealt with by the Court of First Instance. Some matrimonial matters that do not arise out of divorce, judicial separation or marriage annulment can be dealt with by the Magistrates' Court of Gibraltar. Matters arising out of divorce proceedings, judicial separations or marriage annulments generally come under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
The Court of First Instance has jurisdiction to deal with actions founded on contract or tort where the debt, demand or damage claimed is not more than £1.000. The Court also has jurisdiction to deal with an action for the recovery of land where the net annual value for rating of the land in question does not exceed £150. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction to deal with all other cases. The Magistrates' Court has a limited civil jurisdiction, mainly in the area of domestic proceedings such as the custody, care and control of children and maintenance (where these do not arise out of divorce proceedings).
Due to Gibraltar's size, the issue of internal territorial jurisdiction does not arise.
The general rule is that actions against an individual or body corporate should be commenced in the jurisdiction in which that individual or body corporate is domiciled or has its seat (in the latter case).
Contracts - The Rome Convention 1980 as read with The Luxembourg Convention 1984, The Brussels Protocol 1988 and the Funchal Convention 1992 are of legal effect in Gibraltar. The parties to a contract can specify which law is to be applied. In cases involving certain consumer contracts and individual employment contracts, a choice of law provision made by the parties to a contract are not to have the effect of depriving a consumer or an employee of the protection afforded to him by the mandatory rules of the law of the country in which he has his habitual residence (for consumers) or habitually carries out his work (for an employee).
Where the parties to a contract have not chosen the law of a country, the contract is normally governed by the law of the country with which it is most closely connected.
Maintenance - An application for maintenance can be made in Gibraltar in three cases:
Where a maintenance order has been made in one Contracting State, it may be possible to enforce the same in another Contracting State by the applicability of the 1968 Convention and the Lugano Convention. An application under Article 31 for the recognition or enforcement in Gibraltar of a maintenance order is transmitted to the Magistrates' Court by the Attorney General. Once registered by the Magistrates' Court, it is as enforceable as a local maintenance order.
Tort - The general rule is that any legal proceedings should be instituted in the country where the act was done. However, where an act committed in a foreign country can be considered as a tort under Gibraltar law (which derives from English common law) and is also actionable under the law of the foreign country, then it may also be actionable in Gibraltar. A particular issue between the parties may be governed by the law of the country which has the most significant relationship with the occurrence and the parties. (These principles are extracted from Dicey & Morris “The Conflict of Laws”).
Civil claims for damages in criminal proceedings - Most claims are based on tortious elements and therefore the same basic rules apply as set out above. It should be mentioned that in Gibraltar, there is currently no statutory compensation scheme.
Divorce - Divorce proceedings between spouses not living in Gibraltar or of different nationalities will only be entertained by the Supreme Court where either of the parties is domiciled in Gibraltar on the date when the proceedings are begun or was habitually resident in Gibraltar throughout a period of one year ending with that date. The Supreme Court of Gibraltar will apply Gibraltar law.
There is provision under Gibraltar law for the recognition of divorces and legal separations obtained in another Member State by means of judicial or other proceedings that are effective under the law of that country.
In proceedings for annulment, the question of whether a marriage is invalid will generally be determined by the law of the place where the marriage occurred. The question of whether a marriage is invalid on the basis of capacity to marry or consent of the parties is normally determined by the law of the man's or woman's antenuptial domicile. The question of whether a marriage is invalid on the basis of impotence or a refusal to consummate can be determined by Gibraltar law or possibly the law of the petitioner's domicile at the time of the marriage. (These principles are extracted from Dicey & Morris “The Conflict of Laws”).
Parental responsibility - The question of jurisdiction in cases involving parental responsibility is contained in Council Regulation (EC) 1347/2000. In essence, the Court of a Member State exercising jurisdiction by virtue of Article 2 on an application for divorce, legal separation or marriage annulment shall have jurisdiction in matters of parental responsibility over a child of both spouses where the child is habitually resident in that Member State.
Where the child is not habitually resident in that Member State, the Court of that State shall have jurisdiction if the child is habitually resident in another Member State and at least one of the spouses has parental responsibility in relation to the child and the jurisdiction of the Court has been accepted by the spouses and is in the best interests of the child.
Article 2 provides that in matters relating to divorce, legal separation or annulment, jurisdiction shall lie with the courts of the Member State in whose territory:
Normally, the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction to hear actions in personam against a defendant who is in Gibraltar. The position may differ in cases such as:
Please see Section B above. Due to the complex nature of the law in this area and the array of permutations, it is not possible to provide further information than that set out above without considering the facts of each case.
Last update: 19-08-2004