Hierarchy of the courts

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  • Created by: Tiffany
  • Created on: 20-12-11 00:54

Judicial Precedent

What is it?

                Judicial precedent refers to the source of law where past decisions made by judges create law for future judges to follow.

It is also known as case law, it is one of the major sources of law, used in courts today.

Why is it used?

                There are certain areas of both criminal and civil law that have not been codified or organised by the government; this means that it has not been written down in a statute or act of parliament.

 E.g. the criminal law of murder & the civil law of negligence

The system of judicial precedent is there to ensure that these laws are applied in a consistent way in the courts.

How does precedent operate in English courts?

                Most cases that come before a court are similar to previous cases heard before.

                If the material facts are the same prosecutors, defenders and judges will use legal arguments and decisions from those earlier cases this is known as using precedent

                In this way, the past decisions of judges create new law for future judges to use and adhere to.

Hierarchy of the courts

                English legal system is based on the principle of stare decisis

                The Latin translation is {standing be previous decisions}

                This means that the principle of following judicial precedent so the points of law that have been decided in previous cases must follow ALL lower courts and in some superior courts they have to follow their own previous decisions.

                Therefore it makes the law fair and consistent and provides certainty.

Hierarchy of the courts – E.C.J. European Courts of Justice

                European courts bind all the inferior courts

                European Courts of Justice do NOT follow any other courts

Hierarchy of the courts – Supreme Court formerly known as the House of Lords

                Supreme Court binds


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