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4. Sources of Law II: Case Law  

Each Concentrate revision guide is packed with essential information, key cases, revision tips, exam Q&As, and more. This chapter focuses on case law, a major source of law providing for the interpretation of statutes and the application of law to particular circumstances. Case law, also known as the common law, is a set of judge-made rules that have either a binding or persuasive effect on future cases. Judge-made means that a member of the judiciary has decided a case in a certain way, which has led to the development of that particular piece of law. Certain courts are obliged to follow previous judgments, whereas other can ignore them due to their seniority. Indeed, the doctrine of precedent denotes a system of case law—binding or not—that a lower court may or may not have to follow. Whether precedent is binding is dependent on whether there is a statement of law, as opposed to fact, certain reasoning for that decision (known as ratio decidendi), and the decision of a superior court.

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5. The doctrine of judicial precedent  

This chapter considers an essential source of law in the English legal system: judicial precedent (or ‘case law’). The rules and principles of the doctrine of judicial precedent are explored, including how precedents are created, developed, and followed. The chapter analyses the rule that forms the precedent—the ratio decidendi, or the reason for the decision—as well as the importance of other judicial statements that do not form part of those reasons—the obiter dicta. The principle of binding precedent is captured by the expression ‘stare decisis’ (stand by what is decided) and binding precedent relies on a hierarchy of courts. The hierarchy can help to establish whether a particular ratio decidendi binds a particular court and whether an appellate court is bound by its own previous precedents. The chapter is packed with case law examples and highlights the role of non-binding precedent which may still be deemed persuasive for a particular court. The relationship between the English courts and the Court of Justice of the European Union (EU) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is considered. Finally, the chapter considers how a court may avoid following a particular precedent by the process of overruling, distinguishing, or reversing.

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2. An overview of the English legal system  

This chapter provides an introduction to some of the key concepts, themes, and institutions of the English legal system. It offers an overview that highlights fundamental concepts and principles such as parliamentary supremacy, the rule of law, legislation, the common law, and equity. There is a focus on ensuring you have a firm grasp of terminology and know the differences between the criminal law and civil law. The relationship between the English legal system and the European Union (EU) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is also distinguished and explained. In the latter part of the chapter, a summary of the courts, their composition, and their jurisdiction, as well as other legal bodies and personnel in the English legal system, is provided.

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1. The English Legal System  

Alisdair A. Gillespie and Siobhan Weare

This chapter provides an introduction to the English Legal System. Specifically, it explains the meaning of the terms ‘English’, ‘legal’, and ‘system’. It first provides an overview of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, namely England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. It describes the types of law that exist and attempts to define what law is. It then discusses the English legal system, which is based on common law and is an adversarial system.

Chapter

Cover The English Legal System

1. The English Legal System  

This chapter provides an introduction to the English Legal System. Specifically, it explains the meaning of the terms ‘English’, ‘legal’, and ‘system’. It first provides an overview of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, namely England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. It describes the types of law that exist and attempts to define what law is. It then discusses the English legal system, which is based on common law and is an adversarial system.