The Nature and Purpose of the Law in England and Wales

English law refers to the legal system administered by the courts in England and Wales, which rule on both civil and criminal matters. English law is considered as the original of the common law and is based on those principles. English law can be described as having its own legal doctrine, distinct from civil law legal systems since 1189.

There has been no major codification of the law, rather the law is developed by judges in court, applying statute, precedent and case-by-case reasoning to give explanatory judgments of the relevant legal principles. These judgments are binding in future similar cases and for this reason are often reported.

The courts of England and Wales are headed by the Senior Courts of England and Wales, consisting of the Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice (for civil cases) and the Crown Court (for criminal cases). The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land for both criminal and civil appeal cases in England and Wales (also in Northern Ireland cases and civil cases in Scots law) and any decision it makes is binding on every other court in the same jurisdiction, and often has persuasive effect in its other jurisdictions. On appeal, a court may overrule the decisions of its inferior courts, such as county courts (civil) and magistrates’ courts (criminal). The High Court may also quash on judicial review both administrative decisions of the Government and delegated legislation. 

What is case law in the UK and why is it important

Case law is a huge bank of information dating back centuries. As the UK has a common law system (which means that there is no codification of the law), it is based largely on this case law, as well as statues which are passed by Parliament. In certain circumstances (a good example would be the criminal law on murder) there is little statutory guidance with the law having being built up on a case by case basis over the centuries.


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