Judicial Precedent

Judicial Precedent

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Law Revision Notes
Judicial Precedent
"Also known as Case Law. Based on idea that like cases should
be treated alike. Therefore, two people who appear before Courts
at different times or different places will receive the same
justice providing the facts are the same and Statute law remains
House of Lords Binds all other domestic Courts. Since 1966,
not bound themselves (Text of 1966 Practice Statement) and
enables them to develop the Law. It generally does not follow
own previous decisions. There are, however, some exceptions
British Railways Board v Herrington 1972 A child was injured
after going on to an electric railway line via a gap in a broken
fence. The railway was near to some open ground and a play area,
and the station master knew the fence was broken. A previous
case, Addie v Dumbreck 1929, had involved a similar situation,
but on this occasion, a child was killed whilst trespassing in a
privately owned colliery. The decision was that there was no
liability towards the child, and this probably reflected the view of
society in 1929. The Court said that British Rail were aware of the
environment in which the railway line was sited, knew of the
damaged fence and knew of power of their "Lethal Weapon" ­
the railway track.
Court of Appeal 2 Divisions both bound by House of Lords.
Civil ­ Only court which generally binds itself.
Young v Bristol Aeroplane 1944 In this case, the COA declared
that it would be bound by its own decisions, it also laid down the
grounds on which it would not be bound by them
Where two previous decisions of the COA conflicted the
COA could choose which decision to follow. The other
would then be overruled.
Where there was a later decision of the HOL which
conflicted with a COA decision, the COA would follow the
HOL decision.
Where a COA decision had been made per incuriam, that is,
without taking into account a relevant case or Statute,
then, the decision made in error can be overruled.
Criminal ­ Not bound itself since R v Gould 1968 and Liberty of
individual too important.
Elements of a Decision

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Ratio Decidendi The reason for the decision ­ is the central
`core' of a judgement. Crucial points of Law and they constitute
the precedent which must be followed.
Obiter Dictum A thing said by the way ­ Not binding on a later
Judge. Other statements made which are not crucial. These do
not have to be followed but may be persuasive.…read more

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Distinguish Courts find key facts of a case different from that
of an earlier, similar case which would normally be binding.
Merritt v Merritt 1970 A husband and wife splitting up after 25
years marriage agreed in writing that if the wife kept up the
mortgage repayments on their joint home, the husband would
transfer total ownership of her. The wife kept up the payments,
but then the man refused to transfer.…read more


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