The judicial system of Gibraltar is based entirely on the English system, except for minor modifications, which are required because of its peculiarities. Among the most famous cases heard here were those of the sailing ship Marie Celeste (1872) - one of the greatest sea mysteries of all time - and most recently the controversial trial of the IRA shooting in 1988.
There is a Magistrates' Court presided over by a Stipendiary Magistrate or, in his absence, by lay Magistrates.
The Supreme Court of Gibraltar has a criminal jurisdiction similar to that of the English Crown Court, and a civil jurisdiction, which is equivalent to that of the English High Court.
There is also a Court of Appeal for Gibraltar, which is not resident, but holds three sessions each year. The Justices of Appeal are in the main, drawn from the English Court of Appeal.
In the Supreme Court, criminal trials are by Jury whilst in civil cases Judges usually sit alone. There are two Judges, one of whom is the Chief Justice, and so, head of the Judiciary.
The legally qualified Registrar of the Supreme Court also holds the office of Admiralty Marshal. The admiralty jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar is known in the shipping world internationally, and deals with a considerable volume of work. On account of the work of the Admiralty Marshal through the years, the Port of Gibraltar has a reputation as a good place at which to be arrested.
The legal adviser to the Crown is the Attorney General. He combines the functions of Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecution and is also an ex officio member of the House of Assembly. The Attorney General's Chambers have a number of Crown Counsel. There also exists a Legislation Support Unit, created for the purpose of legislative drafting, which is staffed by suitably qualified persons.
Law enforcement is principally in the hands of the Royal Gibraltar Police Force and Gibraltar Customs. The Force is the oldest established British Force outside the United Kingdom, and it operates both in the city and in the bay.
Gibraltar Customs controls all entry points into Gibraltar, i.e. the land frontier, airport and sea points. In addition, it undertakes shore patrols, and is responsible for controlling imports and exports, and for collecting import duties. Like the police, customs also patrol the bay with their own marine section.
Both the Royal Gibraltar Police and Gibraltar Customs work closely with their counterpart organisations in other countries in all matters of crime prevention, and are particularly active in the international battle against drug trafficking.