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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

The cy-près doctrine in English law is an element of trusts law dealing with charitable trusts. The doctrine provides that when such a trust has failed because its purposes are either impossible or cannot be fulfilled, the High Court of Justice or Charity Commission can make an order redirecting the trust's funds to the nearest possible purpose. For charities worth under £5,000 and no land, the trustees (by a two-thirds majority) may make the decision to redirect the trust's funds. The doctrine was initially an element of ecclesiastical law, coming from the Norman French cy près comme possible (as close as possible), but similar and possibly ancestral provisions have been found in Roman law, both in the Corpus Juris Civilis and later Byzantine law. Trusts where the doctrine is applicable are divided into two groups; those with subsequent failure, where the trust's purpose has failed after it came into operation, and initial failure, where the trust's purposes are immediately invalid. Subsequent failure cases simply require the redirection of the funds to the nearest possible purpose, since there is no question of allowing the settlor's next of kin to inherit the money. Initial failure cases, however, require not just a decision on whether the purpose has failed, but also on whether the funds should be subject to cy-près or returned to the estate in a resulting trust. This is decided based on the charitable intention of the settlor, something determined on the facts of each individual case. (more...)

Selected biography

Thomas Jefferson Hogg
Thomas Jefferson Hogg (1792–1862) was a British barrister and writer best known for his friendship with the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. They became friends while studying at University College, Oxford, and remained close until Shelley's death. They collaborated on several literary projects at Oxford, culminating in their joint expulsion following the publication of one controversial treatise. Hogg became a barrister and met Jane Williams, who became his common law wife; they had two children together. The family settled in London, although Hogg's legal career meant that he often had to travel away from home. While living in London Hogg made the acquaintance of several well-known writers, and he published literary works of his own, including two entries on Greek literature in the Encyclopædia Britannica. His best-known work was The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley, an unfinished biography of the poet, criticised for portraying him negatively. Hogg received an appointment to a government commission on municipal corporations and became a revising barrister. His legal career was moderately successful, but he was often frustrated by his failure to attain his goal of becoming a professor or judge. (more...)

Selected case

Motte v Faulkner (decided 28 November 1735) was a copyright lawsuit between Benjamin Motte and George Faulkner over who had the legal rights to publish the works of Jonathan Swift in London. This trial was one of the first to test the Statute of Anne copyright law in regards to Irish publishing independence. Although neither held the copyright to all of Swift's works, the suit became a legal struggle over Irish rights, which were eventually denied by the English courts. Faulkner, in 1735, published the Works of Jonathan Swift in Dublin. However, a few of the works were under Motte's copyright within the Kingdom of Great Britain, and when Faulkner sought to sell his book in London, Motte issued a formal complaint to Jonathan Swift and then proceeded to sue Faulkner. An injunction was issued in Motte's favor, and the book was prohibited from being sold on British soil. The basis of the law protected the rights of the author, and not the publisher, of the works, and Swift was unwilling to support a lawsuit against Faulkner. With Swift's reaction used as a basis, the lawsuit was later seen as a struggle between the rights of Irishmen to print material that were denied under English law. (more...)

Selected picture

Thomas More was a leading counsellor to Henry VIII and served as Lord Chancellor from 1529 to 1532. He was imprisoned and beheaded in 1535 after he had fallen out of favour with the king over his refusal to sign the Act of Supremacy 1534.
Credit: Hans Holbein the Younger
Thomas More was a leading counsellor to Henry VIII and served as Lord Chancellor from 1529 to 1532. He was imprisoned and beheaded in 1535 after he had fallen out of favour with the king over his refusal to sign the Act of Supremacy 1534.

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...)

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From Wikipedia's "Did You Know" archives:

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Bertrand Russell, in Sceptical Essays (1928) "The Recrudescence of Puritanism"

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