English Legal System: An Overview
The main legal systems in the world include European legal system, Roman law system and English legal system of law that has spread to many other countries, which include former English colonies such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The common law of England and Wales, comprises criminal law and civil law.
English law has a history where it has developed gradually from the local Anglo-Saxon customs that survived until 1925. After the Norman domination, English law was developing side by side with the Saxon shire courts, the feudal courts of the barons and the ecclesiastical courts. The royal council, which evolved from the King’s council, gradually absorbed the jurisdictions of the baronial and ecclesiastical courts.
Classification of Law
The legal system law includes criminal law, civil law and the principal areas of non-statutory civil law. Let’s have a look at the following:
- Criminal law: deals with large crimes and offences against society.
- Civil law: solves the disputes between private parties, consumer and supplier, employer and employee, for instance. The plaintiff sues in court to obtain the financial recovery over the damage.
- Principal areas of non-statutory civil law:
It is better to know the difference between statutory and non-statutory requirements of law, before exploring the details of the principal areas of non-statutory civil law.
A statutory requirement is a rule passed by a legislative body whereas, a non-statutory regulations are those made by a government agency.
The key areas of non-statutory civil regulations include laws of contract; trusts; torts – wrong-doings, such as negligence, trespass, defamation, nuisance and breach of contracts.
The Legal System of the United Kingdom
The legal system of the United Kingdom applies to four countries: England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, however some of the countries, like Scotland and Northern Ireland, are quite autonomous in regards to legal regulations establishment. Therefore, this article will mainly focus on the UK regulations that apply to England and Wales.
Sources of Law in English Legal System
The sources of law cover the principles that include legislation, common law, European Union law, statutes, delegated legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights.
It is the law created by the legislature. It mainly deals with the Acts of Parliament. The principal legislation that is based in London deals with the UK Parliament.
This is the only body that has the power to pass laws that can be applied in all four countries. The UK Parliament consists of the House of Lords and House of Common.
The House is Common consists of 650 MPs (Members of Parliament). Each MP represents a defined geographic constituency, where its electors vote using a ‘first-past-the-post’ system. Each elector will have one vote, and the candidate is selected as an MP for that constituency, depending upon the highest counting of votes.
The House of Lords consists of nearly 800 peers, out of which 600 are formally appointed by the Queen on Prime Minister’s recommendation. The other Lords are people who have inherited aristocratic titles such as ‘Lord’ or ‘Lady,’ and senior bishops of the Church of England.
Common law is the one that has been derived from judicial decisions of courts and similar tribunals. The legal system of England and Wales is a common law one, so the conclusion of the senior appellate courts is considered to be part of the law.
It is an Act of Parliament that may give a minister or some other party the rights to make legal provisions. Here, the principal vehicles are the statutory instruments.
European Union law:
The United Kingdom is still a member state of the European Union (EU), therefore the EU directives have to be implemented into the UK national law, and the EU regulations take effect automatically in all the member states.
European Convention on Human Rights:
As per the Human Rights Act 1998, all the courts in the UK are enabled to protect the rights that are identified in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
How is the UK Law Classified?
UK law is classified into two parts: Public law and Private law. Public law is the one that governs the relationship between an individual citizen and the state, whereas the private law governs the relationships between an individual and private organisation.
Civil law is the part of private law, and when it comes to the difference between civil law and criminal law, the civil law covers the areas that deals with negligence, contracts, family matters, probate, employment and land law whereas, the criminal law is the part of the public law. It defines the boundaries of acceptable conduct. A person who breaks the criminal law is considered to have committed an offence against society as a whole.
Enforcement of Civil Law in England and Wales
In England and Wales, the country courts are based at over 200 locations, and it deals with most of the claims that involve less than £25,000 and claims for less than £50,000. These claims include injury to a person. So, if a person believes that an organisation or an individual has committed something wrong as per civil law, he/she can complete a claim form and send it to the appropriate count.
Hearing for higher-value cases are held in the High Court. In both the High Court and Country Court, each case is heard by a single judge.
In the court claims, the person who puts up the case is known as claimant, and is responsible for proving as per civil law that the defendant (the other party) has committed the crime. If the claimant wins the case successfully, he/she will be provided with the recovery as a remedy for the damages caused by the defendant.
If either party is not satisfied with the judgement given by the court, they can move their case forward with the appeal against the decision to the higher court.
Enforcement of Criminal law in England and Wales
In case of criminal law, a person who believes that a crime has been committed contacts the police for investigation. During the investigation, the police arrest and interview the people who come under their surveillance. Once the case is resolved, the individual who has committed the crime will be charged. Later the report of the case is sent to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
CPS will then start criminal proceedings against the suspect who becomes the defendant in the case. In court, it is the responsibility of CPS to provide the proof beyond the reasonable doubt, that the defendant has committed the crime. The sentences for criminal offences include fines (payment of a sum of money), community service or imprisonment.