The English Legal System

The UK is divided into three main countries:

  • England &  Wales, Scotland and Northern Wales.

Each of these countries will have its own court systems and legislation.  However depending upon whether their laws derive from the acts of Parliament or Statutory Instruments, certain laws in one country will apply also to others.

Even if the laws applied in these countries differ, all appeals are finally heard at the Supreme Court.

Sources of law

In the UK, sources of law are defined as primary and secondary law.

Primary sources of of law include the following:

  1. Legislation (Acts created by Parliament, statutes, statutory instruments or Orders in Council etc)
  2. Case law – which are decisions that are made from higher courts which become binding on lower courts and must be followed.

Secondary sources of law include the following:

  1. literature derived from textbooks and information from legal writers,
  2. opinions from legal experts such as counsel
  3. legal decisions made by courts
Common law and statute

Common law is the law declared by judges, which comes from custom and precedent. This law originated from the 12th century.

The common law includes both substantive rules, such as the offence of murder, and procedural ones, such as court procedure rules derived from the inherent jurisdiction of the court.

Common law rules can be overruled by legislation.

Offences such as burglary, theft  are examples of where the law is governed by statute in this case: the Theft Acts 1968, 1978 etc.

Common law and Equity

Equity came about from Common law’s rigidity.  Equity is a separate system which provides discretionary remedies to claimants. Remedies such as: specific performance, injunction and restitution. It is ruled that, where there is a conflict between between the common law and equity; equity will prevail.

European Union Law

For now, until we leave he European Union, the UK is considered to be a Member State of the European Union (EU), which means that EU law takes precedence over UK law.

Civil law

Civil law has various definitions and may be distinguished/defined as below:

  1. To distinguish between Civil and Criminal law
  2. It is a codified system of law which is adopted in countries that have a civil based system i.e. Italy and France.
Some types of civil law

Contract, tort, tax, intellectual property law and family law.

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