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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

Staple Inn
The Inns of Chancery were a group of buildings and legal institutions in London, initially attached to the Inns of Court and used as offices for the clerks of chancery, from which they drew their name. Existing from at least 1344, the Inns gradually changed their purpose, and became both the offices and accommodation for solicitors (as the Inns of Court were to barristers) and a place of initial training for barristers. The practice of training barristers at the Inns of Chancery had died out by 1642, and the Inns instead became dedicated associations and offices for solicitors. With the founding of the Society of Gentlemen Practisers in 1739 and the Law Society of England and Wales in 1825, a single unified professional association for solicitors, the purpose of the Inns died out, and after a long period of decline the last one (Clement's Inn) was sold in 1903 and demolished in 1934. The only buildings to survive largely intact are those of Staple Inn (pictured). (more...)

Selected biography

Charles Abbott, 1st Baron Tenterden
Charles Abbott, 1st Baron Tenterden (1762–1832) was a British barrister and judge who served as Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench between 1818 and 1832. Abbott first considered becoming a barrister when serving as a tutor to the son of Sir Francis Buller. He was called to the bar by the Inner Temple in 1796, and earned more than any other during his time at the Bar, despite being considered unimaginative and a poor speaker. He became a Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in 1816. Three months after he started sitting as a judge, he was transferred to the Court of King's Bench, where he was initially rather poor, being unfamiliar with the court's business. Within two years, he showed "the highest judicial excellence", and when Lord Ellenborough had a stroke in 1818, Abbott was chosen to replace him as Lord Chief Justice. His reign at the head of the Court of King's Bench saw the court flourish, with strong justices and his own much-admired abilities. He was appointed to the peerage in 1827, sitting as Charles Abbott, 1st Baron Tenterden. (more...)

Selected case

Abraham Thornton
Ashford v Thornton was an 1818 English legal case in the Court of King's Bench that upheld the right of the defendant, on a private appeal from an acquittal for murder, to trial by battle. In 1817, Abraham Thornton (pictured) was charged with the murder of Mary Ashford. Thornton met Ashford at a dance, and walked with her from the event. The next morning, Ashford was found drowned in a pit, with little outward signs of violence. Although public opinion was heavily against Thornton, the jury quickly acquitted him, and also found him not guilty of rape. Mary's brother, William Ashford, launched an appeal, and Thornton was rearrested. Thornton claimed the right to trial by battle, a medieval usage which had never been repealed by Parliament. Ashford argued that the evidence against Thornton was overwhelming, and that he was thus ineligible to wager battle. The court decided that the evidence against Thornton was not overwhelming, and that trial by battle was a permissible option under law; thus Thornton was granted trial by battle. Ashford declined the offer of battle and Thornton was freed from custody. Appeals such as Ashford's were abolished by statute the following year, and with them the right to trial by battle. Thornton emigrated to the United States, where he died about 1860. (more...)

Selected picture

Sir William Blackstone (1723–1780), lawyer and author of Commentaries on the Laws of England
Credit: Unknown artist
Sir William Blackstone (1723–1780), lawyer and author of Commentaries on the Laws of England

Selected legislation

The Arbitration Act 1979 (c.42) was an Act of Parliament that reformed arbitration law in England and Wales. Prior to 1979, arbitration law allowed use of the "Case Stated" procedure and other methods of judicial intervention, and the cost and time required for arbitration as a result made England an unpopular jurisdiction. While London was a centre for arbitration in insurance, admiralty and commodities trading, it failed to attract more modern forms of trade. The Act abolished the "Case Stated" procedure and other forms of judicial interference, replacing it with a limited system of appeal; it also allowed parties to agree to limit their rights to appeal to the courts, and gave arbitrators the ability to enforce interlocutory orders. Some academics praised it for bringing English law more into line with that of other nations, others criticised the wording used as unnecessarily complex and hazy. Having been repealed in its entirety by the Arbitration Act 1996, the Act is no longer in force. (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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Topics

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Legislative and constitutional system

Constitution • Parliament • House of Commons • House of Lords • Legislation • Law enforcement • Royal Prerogative

Courts and tribunals

Courts of England and Wales • Supreme Court • Court of Appeal • High Court • Crown Court • County Courts • Magistrates' Court • Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority • Employment Appeal Tribunal • Employment Tribunal • Information Tribunal • Mental Health Review Tribunal

Judges

Lord Chancellor • President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom • Lord Chief Justice • Master of the Rolls • Chancellor of the High Court • President of the Family Division • President of the Queen's Bench Division • Lord Justice of Appeal • High Court judge • Judiciary of England and Wales • Magistrates of England and Wales

Government and state bodies

Ministry of Justice • Secretary of State for Justice • Attorney General • Director of Public Prosecutions • Crown Prosecution Service • Her Majesty's Courts Service • HM Land Registry • National Offender Management Service (HM Prison Service • National Probation Service) • Law Commission • Office of the Public Guardian • Tribunals Service • Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council · Boundary Commissions • Civil Justice Council • Information Commissioner's Office • Judicial Appointments Commission • Judicial College • Legal Services Commission • Sentencing Council • Youth Justice Board

Lawyers and institutions

Barrister • Bar Standards Board • Inns of Court (Gray's Inn, Inner Temple, Lincoln's Inn, Middle Temple) • General Council of the Bar • Queen's Counsel • Solicitor • Law Society of England and Wales • Solicitors Regulation Authority • Legal executive • Institute of Legal Executives

Legal areas

Administrative law • Causation • Civil liberties • Commercial law • Company law • Competition law • Contract law • Criminal law • Estoppel • Family law • Frustration • Insanity • Insolvency • Intoxication • Inquests • Juries • Labour law • Loss of a chance • Manslaughter • Marriage • Misrepresentation • Mistake • Murder • Nuisance • Police powers • Privacy law • Property law • Provocation • Right to silence • Tort law • Trespass • Trusts law

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