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Portal:Law of England and Wales

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The Law of England and Wales Portal

English law is the legal system of England and Wales, and is the basis of common law legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries and the United States (as opposed to civil law or pluralist systems in use in other countries). It was exported to Commonwealth countries while the British Empire was established and maintained, and it forms the basis of the legal systems of most of those countries. England and Wales are constituent countries of the United Kingdom; Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legal systems, although in some areas of law there are no differences between the jurisdictions. Whilst Wales has a devolved Assembly, its power to legislate is limited by the Government of Wales Act 2006.

English law is a mixture of common law, legislation passed by the UK Parliament (or subordinate legislation made under delegated authority) and European law. The essence of common law is that it is made by judges sitting in courts, applying their common sense and knowledge of legal precedent (stare decisis) to the facts before them. A decision of the highest appeal court in England and Wales, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, is binding on every other court in the hierarchy. Common law can be altered by Parliament. The oldest statute currently in force is the Distress Act 1267, part of the Statute of Marlborough. Three sections of Magna Carta, originally signed in 1215 and a landmark in the development of English law, are still in force, but they date to the reissuing of the law in 1297. European law applies in England and Wales because the UK is a member of the European Union, and so the European Court of Justice can direct English and Welsh courts on the meaning of areas of law in which the EU has passed legislation. (more about English law...)

Selected article

Wife selling at a market
The English custom of wife selling was a way of ending an unsatisfactory marriage by mutual agreement that began in the late 17th century, when divorce was a practical impossibility for all but the very wealthiest. After parading his wife with a halter around her neck, arm, or waist, a husband would publicly auction her to the highest bidder. Wife selling provides the backdrop for Thomas Hardy's novel The Mayor of Casterbridge, in which the central character sells his wife at the beginning of the story, an act that haunts him for the rest of his life, and ultimately destroys him. Although the custom had no basis in law and frequently resulted in prosecution, particularly from the mid-19th century onwards, the attitude of the authorities was equivocal. At least one early 19th-century magistrate is on record as stating that he did not believe he had the right to prevent wife sales, and there were cases of local Poor Law Commissioners forcing husbands to sell their wives, rather than having to maintain the family in workhouses. Wife selling persisted in some form until the early 20th century; according to the jurist and historian James Bryce, writing in 1901, wife sales were still occasionally taking place during his time. A woman giving evidence in a Leeds police court in 1913, claimed that she had been sold to one of her husband's workmates for £1, one of the last reported instances of a wife sale in England. (more...)

Selected biography

Statue of Hubert Walter

Hubert Walter (circa 1160 – 1205) was an influential royal adviser in the late 12th and early 13th centuries in the positions of chief justiciar of England, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Lord Chancellor. As chancellor (1199–1205), Walter began the keeping of the Charter Roll, a record of all charters issued by the chancery. Walter was not noted for his holiness in life or learning, but historians have judged him one of the most outstanding government ministers in English history. Walter owed his early advancement to his uncle Ranulf de Glanvill, who helped him become a clerk of the Exchequer. Walter was elected Bishop of Salisbury shortly after the accession of King Henry's son Richard I to the throne of England. He accompanied King Richard on the Third Crusade, and was involved in raising Richard's ransom after the king was captured in Germany. As a reward for his faithful service, Walter was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1193. He also served as Richard's justiciar until 1198, and set up a system which was the precursor for the modern justices of the peace, based on selecting four knights in each hundred to administer justice. (more...)

Selected case

Greene v Associated Newspapers Ltd is a 2004 decision of the Court of Appeal that governs the use of injunctions against publication in alleged defamation cases. Greene, a businesswoman, sought an injunction against Associated Newspapers Ltd to prevent them publishing alleged links with Peter Foster; while they claimed to have emails showing links, she asserted that they were false. The test at the time for a preliminary injunction in defamation cases was Bonnard v Perryman, where it was established that the applicant has to show "a real prospect of success" at trial. The Human Rights Act 1998 established that judges should consider whether applicants are "more likely than not" to succeed at trial, a test applied to confidentiality cases in Cream Holdings Ltd v Banerjee and the Liverpool Post and Echo Ltd. Greene claimed that the Cream test should be applied rather than the Bonnard test. The Court of Appeal said that defamation was significantly different from breach of confidentiality. While the damage from a breach of confidentiality can never be undone, justifiying a simple test for issuing injunctions, a defamation case that is won vindicates the injured party. Making it easier to grant injunctions in defamation cases would damage the delicate balance between freedom of the press and the right to privacy; as such, despite the Human Rights Act and Cream, Bonnard is still a valid test. (more...)

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Selected legislation

The Limitation Act 1963 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that amended the statute of limitations to allow actions in some cases where the injured party had not discovered the injury until after the standard date of expiration. The Act was based on the report of the Davies Committee on Limitation of Actions in Cases of Personal Injury, created after the Court of Appeal decision in the case of Cartledge v Jopling, and the Committee notably produced their final report before Cartledge had been heard in the House of Lords. The draft bill was presented to Parliament on 6 May 1963, given the Royal Assent on 31 July and came into force on the same day. The act allowed an injured party to bring a claim outside the normal statute of limitations period if he could show that he was not aware of the injuries himself until after the limitation period had expired and if he gained the permission of the court. After a series of problems emerged, including vagueness on a point even the House of Lords was unable to clarify and poor draftsmanship, the Act was repealed bit by bit during the 1970s, with the Limitation Act 1980 scrapping the last remaining sections. (more...)

Did you know...

From Wikipedia's "Did You Know" archives:

Selected quotation

Lord Atkin, in Donoghue v Stevenson (1931), giving what would become a classic definition of the extent of the law of negligence.

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