Law students spend a lot of time looking at specific cases. Some of these are simply good examples, but many are studied because they set precedents and established principles that continue to have major consequences for the way the law is administered in the UK. The following cases are a few key examples of such landmark legal events:
The Arrest of Pinochet
In the late 1990s, General Pinochet (pictured right), former dictator of Chile, was placed under arrest in London and detained following a request for extradition to Spain. He was facing charges of crimes against humanity. Ultimately Pinochet was never extradited, but the case still established an important principle. Before the establishment of the international courts that would now be tasked with handling such charges – as recently demonstrated by the conviction of Radovan Karadzic for crimes against humanity – this incident established that heads of state were accountable and were not immune from legal consequences for their actions.
The Belmarsh Decision
One of the more recent landmark cases, the Belmarsh Decision of 2004 related to the then-government’s policy of detaining foreign individuals suspected of terrorism indefinitely without making charges against them. After nine law lords reviewed the policy and a subsequent legal challenge, a majority declared that the practice was both discriminatory and illegal. This is now one of the key precedents to consider when debating the delicate balance between individual freedoms and national security.
The Snail in the Bottle Case
This 1932 case firmly established a legal concept so powerful that, today, it is the basis for an entire area of the law. It was arguably the first case in which an individual made a claim for criminal negligence, and enshrined into law the need for individuals and businesses to take due care to ensure that they do not cause harm to others. A Mrs Donoghue brought a claim against the manufacturer of a bottle of ginger beer in which she had found “the decomposed remains of a snail which were not, and could not be, detected until the greater part of the contents of the bottle had been consumed.” The court found that, as the manufacturer was creating a product designed for human consumption and placing it in a bottle which did not allow the customer to inspect it before drinking, they had a duty to ensure that the contents were indeed suitable for their intended purpose and not likely to cause harm to the drinker.
The world of financial service in the UK is a highly regulated one and as such, a lot of legalities have to be assessed and taken into consideration. As such, lawyers are expected to have good credentials in order to be of good demand in this high stress industry. According to some, lawyers can find the financial services market as a great option for a second career as well as other people in the field of law who would like to focus on or change the direction of their careers. Law is a constant factor when it comes to providing financial advice and planning especially in aspects such as banking, lending and investing. From taxation laws, estates and government trusts, managing finances and dealing with the legalities of business finance, there are numerous areas in which a law career can be helpful.
Careers in law are equally expansive, extending to a variety of topics. Therefore, those who want to focus on financial services should definitely direct their studies on taxation, corporate law, financial law and other related areas in which the central factor is providing support or producer services to their clientele. Since a lot of companies are on the rise, it is expected that the demand for these professional legal services will also rise. In the last few years, the number of services related to accident and personal injury compensation claims has also increased. Therefore, there is solid activity in the legal industry and lawyers continuously grow in the industry.
Every aspect of the financial services industry requires some legal support. This makes the industry more competitive especially for new lawyers. Nevertheless the possibilities for a lucrative career are very much promising. At the end of the day, the goal of legal specialists is to ensure that companies and businesses, even individuals are able to comply with the legal expectations that are set by the authorities.
The Court of Appeal recently ruled that the government’s flagship scheme to tackle unemployment was unlawful and fundamentally flawed.
Under the back to work scheme, unemployed people would work for free in various voluntary roles in return for keeping their unemployment benefits. The theory behind this was that the unemployed would gain vital experience and skills to support subsequent job applications, in addition to keeping them in the world of work. In contrast, many critics have condemned the back to work scheme as slavery, given the fact that the work performed is entirely unpaid, contrary to legislation.
However, the Court of Appeal recently heard the twin cases of Cait Reilly, 24, of Birmingham and Jamieson Wilson, 40, from Nottingham. Miss Reilly had been working voluntarily at Poundland, and was told she had to remain working there to receive her benefits, in addition to the placement forcing her to quit her voluntary work at a museum. Mr Jamieson, a former HGV driver, objected to his unpaid placement- cleaning furniture- and lost his jobseekers allowance for six months.
In the unanimous judgement handed down by the Appeal Court, the three judges quashed regulations concerning the back to work initiative. In their verdict, the judges stated that the 2011 regulations behind the scheme were found to be lacking in providing information to the unemployed, especially as to the sanctions for non- compliance with the scheme (I.e. refusing the unpaid work placements), in addition to not complying with the relevant Act of Parliament authorising the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) to introduce the programme.
In a radio interview, employment minister Mark Hoban expressed his disappointment at the decision, stating that “what the judge said is that there should be more detail in the regulations. What we are doing [now] is introducing emergency regulations to provide that detail. So it’s business as usual for people who want support to look for a job. At the same time we are going to appeal this judgment.” Indeed, DWP has since then very rapidly brought in new, clearer rules and regulations to allow the unpaid back to work scheme to continue temporarily whilst an appeal is lodged. Long term, however, this judgement means that the scheme in its current format will either have to be scrapped or radically overhauled.
In the wake of this judgement another legal case is likely to arise, this time concerning whether the unemployed who lost their benefits for not enrolling in the scheme can get a refund for lost benefits. The government is adamant that there will be no such compensation- but if the matter is brought to court, that would be the decision of the judiciary and not ministers.
Business law is a very broad and all encompassing area of law. It is often sub divided into other areas (contract, employment, etc). Essentially, business law concerns all legal aspects of setting up, establishing, running, managing and expanding a business, be it big, medium or small.
Also called commercial law, business law is often considered a branch of civil (as opposed to criminal) law. Commercial law seeks to govern and regulate business transactions, standards, oversight and accountability.
Commercial law contains many different strands, often categorised to avoid confusion. On the one hand, managers have laws concerning employment (e.g. the UK Employment Act 1996) and their relationship and responsibilities to their employees. Contract law- be it leases of premises, or contracts for supplies or employment- forms a key part of commercial law, and is often incredibly dense and detailed.
Practical elements of how businesses should operate are also covered by commercial law; trade and industry standards have to be adhered to, selling arrangements have to be fair, good working practices have to be established, etc. Health and safety is very important, as compliance to legal codes such as the US’s OSHA is a vital requirement for all businesses. Customer and supplier rights and responsibilities are another concern of commercial law (e.g. the Uk’s UCTA 1977), as is fair and honest advertising and promoting.
Many nations have laws promoting competition and fair market practices to be taken into consideration- the EU being a good example. Business taxation, financial practices and record keeping are also regulated by dedicated business financial statutes and governmental agencies. If it is a public company, there is legislation in place setting out how the company should be fairly and openly publicly traded.
Additionally the matter of carriage of goods, be it by sea, air, rail or road vehicle is regulated- especially if the goods are crossing borders. For larger business, entering new markets, establishing in new countries, and mergers and acquisitions each come with their own legal issues and concerns. Environmental or human rights law might be relevant for some businesses.
Business or commercial law is a very varied area of law, cutting across several diverse legal areas. These days, it can often also have an international dimension. Commercial law seeks to regulate all areas of business transactions to ensure that the business is open and accountable, and operating in line in with trade regulations and local legislation.