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Portal:Law of England and Wales

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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

Lord George Gordon, the defendant
Lord George Gordon was tried for high treason on 5 February 1781 before Lord Mansfield in the Court of King's Bench, as a result of his role in the Gordon Riots. Gordon had led a protest against the Papists Act 1778, a Catholic relief bill, during which he denounced Members of Parliament and launched "anti-Catholic harangues". Protesters began looting nearby buildings; by the time the riots had finished a week later, 300 had died, and more property had been damaged than during the entire French Revolution. Gordon was indicted for levying war against the King. Thomas Erskine, one of the barristers defending him, made an impassioned speech, which argued that Gordon's actions were only crimes under the illegally extended law of constructive treason, and this led to the jury finding him not guilty. This result, which met with pleasure due to the popular disquiet with the idea of constructive treason, left juries unwilling to apply the extended law of constructive treason; as a result, the government was forced to incorporate it into statute law. (more...)

Selected biography

Sir Edward Coke
Edward Coke (1552–1634) was an English barrister, judge and politician considered to be the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. He took part in several notable cases as a barrister, including Slade's Case, before being elected to Parliament, where he served as Solicitor General and as Speaker of the House of Commons. As Attorney General he prosecuted Robert Devereux, Sir Walter Raleigh and the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. As Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in the Case of Proclamations and Dr. Bonham's Case, he declared the King to be subject to the law, and the laws of Parliament to be void if in violation of "common right and reason". As Chief Justiceship of the King's Bench, he restricted the definition of treason and declared a royal letter illegal, leading to his dismissal. He returned to Parliament, where he was instrumental in the passage of the Petition of Right, considered one of the crucial constitutional documents of England. In retirement, he finished his Reports and the Institutes of the Lawes of England. (more...)

Selected case

Jones v Kaney is a 2011 Supreme Court decision on whether expert witnesses in litigation can be sued for professional negligence. A claimant injured in a road traffic accident said that he had to settle his compensation claim at an undervalue because his expert psychologist had been negligent. The Supreme Court, by a majority, decided that expert witnesses were not immune from such claims, reversing a line of authority dating back 400 years. Lord Phillips, a member of the majority, compared the situation of expert witnesses with that of advocates, on the basis that both owed duties to clients and to the court. Advocates' immunity from negligence claims had been removed in 2001 but without an increase in vexatious claims. Lord Hope, in the minority, said that experts and advocates had different functions and so disagreed with the comparison. The judgment has been called a "landmark ruling" and an overdue step. Some commentators were concerned that it will lead to reduction in the number of expert witnesses prepared to become involved with some particularly sensitive areas, such as child abuse cases. Lady Hale, who also dissented, said that changing the law in this way was "irresponsible" and said that the position should instead be considered by the Law Commission and Parliament. (more...)

Selected picture

An 1875 illustration of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera Trial by Jury
Credit: David Henry Friston
An 1875 illustration of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera Trial by Jury

Selected legislation

The Trustee Act 2000 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that regulates the duties of trustees in English trust law. Reform in these areas had been advised as early as 1982, and finally came about through the Trustee Bill 2000, based on the Law Commission's 1999 report "Trustees' Powers and Duties", which was introduced to the House of Lords in January 2000. The bill received the Royal Assent on 23 November 2000 and came into force on 1 February 2001 through the Trustee Act 2000 (Commencement) Order 2001, a Statutory Instrument, with the Act having effect over England and Wales. The Act (which is still in force) covers five areas of trust law: the duty of care imposed upon trustees, trustees' power of investment, the power to appoint nominees and agents, the power to acquire land, and the power to receive remuneration for work done as a trustee. It sets a new duty of care, both objective and standard, massively extends the trustees' power of investment and limits the trustees' liability for the actions of agents, also providing for their remuneration for work done in the course of the trust. (more...)

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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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