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Legal Dictionary

English law

Definition of English law

Further reading

English law is the legal system of England and Wales,[1] and is the basis of common law [2] legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries[3]and the United States (as opposed to civil law or pluralist systems in other countries, such as Scots law). It was exported to Commonwealth countries while the British Empire was established and maintained, and it forms the basis of the jurisprudence of most of those countries. English law prior to the American revolution is still part of the law of the United States through reception statutes, except in Louisiana, and provides the basis for many American legal traditions and policies, though it has no superseding jurisdiction.

English law in its strictest sense applies within the jurisdiction of England and Wales. Whilst Wales now has a devolved Assembly, any legislation which that Assembly enacts is enacted in particular circumscribed policy areas defined by the Government of Wales Act 2006, other legislation of the U.K. Parliament, or by orders in council given under the authority of the 2006 Act. Furthermore that legislation is, as with any by-law made by any other body within England and Wales, interpreted by the undivided judiciary of England and Wales.[4] Also see below.

The essence of English 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, and they will follow its directions. For example, there is no statute making murder illegal. It is a common law crime - so although there is no written Act of Parliament making murder illegal, it is illegal by virtue of the constitutional authority of the courts and their previous decisions. Common law can be amended or repealed by Parliament; murder, by way of example, carries a mandatory life sentence today, but had previously allowed the death penalty.

England and Wales are constituent countries of the United Kingdom, which is a member of the European Union. Hence, EU law is a part of English law. The European Union consists mainly of countries which use civil law and so the civil law system is also in England in this form. 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.

The oldest law currently in force is the Distress Act 1267, part of the Statute of Marlborough, (52 Hen. 3).[5] Three sections of Magna Carta, originally signed in 1215 and a landmark in the development of English law, are extant, but they date to the reissuing of the law in 1297.

References

  1. Jurisdiction Of Courts In England And Wales And Their Recognition Of Foreign Insolvency Proceedings
  2. http://dictionary.law.com/definition2.asp?selected=248
  3. The Common Law in the British Empire
  4. "Website of the government in Wales". Retrieved 2008-04-15.
  5. Legal oddities

Source: Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.




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