Judiciary notes for Edexcel Unit 2

My revision notes for the Judiciary, includes modern examples and all of unit 2 content needed for judiciary.

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  • Created on: 20-01-12 19:41
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The Role of Judges
-To define the meaning of law -`separation of powers'
-judges don't `make' law; simply interpret practice hard to define between `interpreting and
making law'
What they do...
1. Preside over court cases ­ ensure `fair trial'. Provide specialist knowledge. E.g. the judge
presiding over the Stephen Lawrence murder trial was Justice Treacy
2. Interpret and apply law ­ `apply letter of the law' BUT conflicts in interpretation ministers.
3. `Make law'- all law is `judge made law', determine nature of `common law' based on `judicial
precedent' as case law accepts previous judgement as `binding'
4. Preside over public inquiries- Impartial, quasi- judicial BUT open to pressure from
ministers? E.g. the on-going media inquiry chaired by Lord Justice Leveson.
5. Decide sentencing in criminal cases- e.g. deciding the life sentences for the murderers of
Stephen Lawrence. BUT role reduced because of minimum and mandatory sentences.
The rule of law
-Principle of const. -law should apply equally to all -alternative is arbitary govt
-according to Dicey ensures a `government of laws' not government of men'
-John Locke ­ `wherever law ends, tyranny begins'
1. No-one is above the law ­ applies to everyone in society including ministers to ensure limits
of power are not exceeded. Upheld by administrative law and judicial review.
BUT PM Powers given by royal prerogative (not judiciable). Parliament above the law?
(Can make amend any?) Parliamentary Privilege can say things e.g. Ryan Giggs. Queen
Head of legal system ­not subject to law.
2. Equality before the law- all citizens treated alike so same legal rights and access.
BUT only wealthy can have top lawyers. Legal aid for only poorest.
3. The law is always applied- breaches of the law will be punished. Only punishment for
breaches of law through due process.
BUT Not all crimes are reported, e.g. rapes etc. Not all crimes are detected. e.g.
speeding. Trial by media- e.g. Vincent Tabak over Jo Yates, or 5 over S.Lawrence
4. Legal redress is available through the courts ­ has to protect fundamental human rights
BUT No entrenched bill of rights, HRA could be set aside. Access to ECHR is expensive
and time consuming.
Judicial independence
The principle that the actions and decisions of judges should not be influenced by pressure of other
branches of govt. Can apply the law as they wish. Separation of powers so not like Soviet Union

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Can be `political' by either `external bias' influenced by
other bodies including the executive, or `internal' from the prejudices within judges.
How is it maintained?
1. Appointment Process- Before were appointed by PM and Lord Chancellor, now Judicial
Appointments Committee so decided on merit rather than sympathy for the govt.…read more

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Lady Hale who says ' no system of appointments which produces only 1 women can be
considered remotely satisfactory' and only 4 among the 37 judges in the Court of Appeal, no
ethnic minority judges. In 2007 only 73 of 639 circuit judges were female and 78% were
Oxbridge graduates.…read more

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Judges and Civil Liberties
In the UK basic rights and expression are not given explicit legal expression. Freedoms are permitted
by the common law belief that `everything is permitted that is not prohibited.' so UK citizens had
`residual rights'.…read more

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This became an issue when 9 Afghan asylum seekers who had hijacked a plane won a ruling in court
that they could remain in Britain, not be sent back after serving their sentence because they risked
facing torture in their home country. Tony Blair described the ruling as an `abuse of common sense'
and John Reid as `bizarre and inexplicable'. Lord Woolf replied that to limit asylum seekers rights was
`in conflict with the rule of law.…read more

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Conflicting views of civil liberties
When govts accused of `threatening' some civil rights, defended by protecting other freedoms.
`constitutional democracy' vs `majoritarian democracy'. Critics of strong govt have linked human
rights and civil liberties, so `belong' to the citizen and are `absolute' entitlements. Provide basis for
democracy as guarantee citizens can think for themselves. E.g. right to liberty ­no detention without
trial.…read more

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SUPREME COURT- February 2011- ruling was putting sex offenders on the sex offenders register for
life without a right of appeal was `disproportionate', At present anyone sentenced to 30 months or
more is on the register indefinately but declared incompatablie with ECHR in terms of respect to
private life.
JUD CONFLICT- Michael Howard criticised sentencing of killers of toddler James Bulger.…read more


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