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Portal:Law of England and Wales

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Introduction

English law is the common law legal system of England and Wales, comprising mainly criminal law and civil law, each branch having its own courts and procedures.

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

Judge Norman Birkett at the bench during the Nuremberg Trials
Norman Birkett, 1st Baron Birkett (1883–1962) was a British barrister, politician and judge. Born in Ulverston, Lancashire, he initially trained to be a Methodist preacher, and attended Emmanuel College, Cambridge to study theology and history. He became President of the Cambridge Union, and after switching to law graduated in 1910. He was called to the Bar in 1913 and developed a reputation as a barrister able to defend people with almost watertight criminal cases against them, such as in the second of the Brighton trunk murders and the Blazing Car murder. He sat as a Member of Parliament for Nottingham East in the 1920s, and was described as "the Lord Chancellor that never was". In 1941, he became a judge of the High Court, and later served as the alternate British judge in the Nuremberg Trials. Unhappy with his time in the High Court, he accepted a position in the Court of Appeal in 1950, but after finding he enjoyed it even less, retired in 1956 when he had served long enough to draw a pension. Following his retirement he was made a hereditary peer, and spoke regularly in the House of Lords. After speaking there in 1962 he collapsed at home, and following a failed operation died aged 78. (more...)

Selected case

Thomas Bonham v College of Physicians, commonly known as Dr. Bonham's Case, was decided in 1610 by the Court of Common Pleas under Sir Edward Coke, the court's Chief Justice. Coke ruled that "in many cases, the common law will controul Acts of Parliament, and sometimes adjudge them to be utterly void: for when an Act of Parliament is against common right and reason, or repugnant, or impossible to be performed, the common law will controul it, and adjudge such Act to be void". Coke's meaning has been disputed over the years; some interpret his judgment as referring simply to judicial review of statutes to correct misunderstandings which would render them unfair, while others argue he meant that the common law courts have the power to strike down completely those statutes they deem to be repugnant. Whatever Coke's meaning, after an initial period in which the principle was accepted, Bonham's Case was thrown aside in favour of the growing doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty. It has been criticised in England, but has received a better reaction in the United States, where it was relied upon in the debates about the writs of assistance and Stamp Act 1765. Marbury v. Madison, which forms the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States, uses the words "void" and "repugnant", seen as a direct reference to Coke. (more...)

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The Old Bailey, officially called the Central Criminal Court – the figure of Justice on the top is not blindfolded, contrary to common belief.
Credit: Nevilley
The Old Bailey, officially called the Central Criminal Court – the figure of Justice on the top is not blindfolded, contrary to common belief.

Selected legislation

The Obscene Publications Act 1959 is an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament that significantly reformed the law related to obscenity. Before the Act, the law on publishing obscene materials was governed by the common law case of R v Hicklin, which had no exceptions for artistic merit or the public good. During the 1950s, the Society of Authors recommended reform of the existing law, submitting a draft bill to the Home Office in February 1955. After several failed attempts, a bill was introduced to Parliament by Roy Jenkins and given the Royal Assent on 29 July 1959, coming into force on 29 August 1959. With the committee consisting of both censors and reformers, reform of the law was limited, with several extensions to police powers included in the final version. The Act created a new offence for publishing obscene material, replacing the previous common law offence of obscene libel, and also allows Justices of the Peace to issue warrants for the police to seize such materials. At the same time it created two defences; firstly, the defence of innocent dissemination, and secondly the defence of public good. The Act (which is still in force) has been used in several high-profile cases, such as the trials of Penguin Books for publishing Lady Chatterley's Lover and Oz for the Schoolkids OZ issue, but more recently has been rarely used despite the increasing amount of "obscene" material available to the general public. (more...)

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Viscount Sankey, stating the principle of the presumption of innocence in Woolmington v DPP (1935)

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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 Court • 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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