Portal:Law

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Law is a system of rules, usually enforced through a set of institutions. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a primary social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus ticket to trading on derivatives markets. Property law defines rights and obligations related to the transfer and title of personal (often referred to as chattel) and real property. Trust law applies to assets held for investment and financial security, while tort law allows claims for compensation if a person's rights or property are harmed. If the harm is criminalised in a statute, criminal law offers means by which the state can prosecute the perpetrator. Constitutional law provides a framework for the creation of law, the protection of human rights and the election of political representatives. Administrative law is used to review the decisions of government agencies, while international law governs affairs between sovereign states in activities ranging from trade to environmental regulation or military action. Writing in 350 BC, the Greek philosopher Aristotle declared: "The rule of law is better than the rule of any individual."

Legal systems elaborate rights and responsibilities in a variety of ways. A general distinction can be made between civil law jurisdictions, which codify their laws, and common law systems, where judge made law is not consolidated. In some countries, religion informs the law. Law provides a rich source of scholarly inquiry, into legal history, philosophy, economic analysis or sociology. Law also raises important and complex issues concerning equality, fairness and justice. "In its majestic equality", said the author Anatole France in 1894, "the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread." In a typical democracy, the central institutions for interpreting and creating law are the three main branches of government, namely an impartial judiciary, a democratic legislature, and an accountable executive. To implement and enforce the law and provide services to the public, a government's bureaucracy, the military and police are vital. While all these organs of the state are creatures created and bound by law, an independent legal profession and a vibrant civil society inform and support their progress. (More…)

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Targeted Killing in International Law is a book about the legality of targeted killing, written by Nils Melzer. It was first published by Oxford University Press in May 2008. The book delves into the history surrounding use of targeted killing as a government strategy by multiple countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Switzerland, and Germany; both for military and law enforcement purposes. Melzer argues that directly after the September 11 attacks in the United States, perceptions regarding the use of the tactic of targeted killing shifted to become more supportive. The book received a favorable reception, and was a joint-winner of the 2009 Paul Guggenheim Prize in International Law given by the Geneva Graduate Institute. It garnered positive reviews in publications including the International Criminal Justice Review, the European Journal of International Law, and the American Journal of International Law. (more...)

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A large stone castle, with imposing towers either side of the gateway, is partly obscured by trees on the green in front of the building. A road leads up to the castle, at the end of which are parked six cars outside the high wooden doors.

The Samlesbury witches were three women from the Lancashire village of Samlesbury – Jane Southworth, Jennet Bierley, and Ellen Bierley – accused by a 14-year-old girl, Grace Sowerbutts, of practising witchcraft. Their trial at Lancaster Assizes in England on 19 August 1612 was one in a series of witch trials held there over two days, among the most famous in English history. The trials were unusual for England at that time in two respects: Thomas Potts, the clerk to the court, published the proceedings in his The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster; and the number of the accused found guilty and hanged was unusually high, ten at Lancaster and another at York. However, all three of the Samlesbury women were acquitted.

The charges against the women included child murder and cannibalism. In contrast, the others tried at the same assizes, who included the Pendle witches, were accused of maleficium – causing harm by witchcraft. The case against the three women collapsed "spectacularly" when the chief prosecution witness, Grace Sowerbutts, was exposed by the trial judge to be "the perjuring tool of a Catholic priest". (more...)

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Jawaharlal Nehru at the Allahabad High Court

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R (Bancoult) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 2) was a case of the House of Lords concerning the removal of the Chagos Islanders and the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. The Chagos Islands, acquired by the United Kingdom in 1814, were reorganised as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) in 1965 for the purpose of removing its inhabitants. Under a 1971 Order-in-Council, the Chagossians were forcibly removed, and the central island of Diego Garcia leased to the United States for use as a military outpost. In 2000, Olivier Bancoult successfully brought a judicial review claim against the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for the initial ordinance which led to the Chagossian removal. In response, Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, repealed the 1971 Order-in-Council and announced he would not appeal against the decision, allowing the Chagossians to return home. In 2004, a second Order-in-Council was produced, again reinstating the off-limits nature of the Chagos Islands. Bancoult brought a second case, arguing that this Order was again ultra vires and unreasonable, and that Cook had violated legitimate expectation by passing the second Order after giving the impression that the Chagossians were free to return home. On 22 October 2008, the Lords decided by a 3-2 majority to uphold the new Order-in-Council, stating that it was valid and, although judicial review actions could look at Orders-in-Council, the national security and foreign relations issues in the case barred them from doing so. (more...)

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The Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 are two Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Parliament Act 1911 asserted the supremacy of the House of Commons by limiting the legislation-blocking powers of the House of Lords. Provided the provisions of the Act are met, legislation can be passed without the approval of the House of Lords. The 1911 Act also amended the Septennial Act to reduce the maximum life of a Parliament from seven years to five. The first Parliament Act was amended by the Parliament Act 1949, passed when Clement Attlee (pictured) was Prime Minister. This further limited the power of the Lords by reducing the time that they could delay bills, from two years to one. The Parliament Acts (which are still in force) have been used to pass legislation against the wishes of the House of Lords on only seven occasions since 1911, including the passing of the Parliament Act 1949. Some constitutional lawyers had questioned the validity of the 1949 Act; these doubts were settled in 2005 when an unusually large panel of nine Law Lords ruled against a challenge by the Countryside Alliance to the validity of the Hunting Act 2004, which had been passed under the auspices of the Act. (more...)

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