How the UK Legal System works

Posted by admin on October 26, 2012 under UK Law | Be the First to Comment

Unlike the majority of states around the world the United Kingdom does not have a written constitution. Instead the law derives from different sources of law which govern the state. Statute laws are created by the Parliament with the approval of both houses. The House of Commons, consisting of elected Members of Parliament and the House of Lords, consisting of Peers, put forward proposals for bills which become Acts of Parliament if they successfully the pass the stages of the legislative process.

The legislative process is quite lengthy and has several stages such as the First Reading, Second Reading, Committee Stage, Report Stage and Third Reading in order for a bill to become a law of the land. The same stages must then also be repeated in the other house. The Head of State for the UK is Her Majesty the Queen. The final stage of the legislative process requires the consent of the Queen, formally known the Royal Assent. Once these stages have passed, a new law then comes into existence.

Parliament and delegated bodies have the role of creating new laws; however it is the role of the courts to interpret and apply these laws. In the UK we have a court hierarchy system which sets out the ranks of the courts, and states which division it deals with. The highest court in the hierarchy is the Supreme Court which deals with specific points of law. We then have the Court of Appeal which has two divisions both civil and criminal. In the civil division we have the High Court and the County Court at the bottom of the hierarchy. The criminal division on the other hand consists of the Crown Court and Magistrates Court. Tribunals are also a part of the court system and deal with employment and immigration appeal cases. In the UK, decisions of higher courts are binding on lower courts due to the doctrine of precedent.

Other sources which make up the legal system in the UK include customs as well as European Union Law. In 1973 the UK joined the European Economic Community which was later replaced by the European Union. Any decisions made by the EU are now binding upon the citizens of the member states. Although Parliament is sovereign, EU law can only be ignored if the UK leaves the EU.