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English Law

English Law is a legal system that applies to both England and Wales under the umbrella of the United Kingdom. The law has, basically, been constructed by court-bound judges that, through their years of knowledge, qualifications and experience, have created statutes by which the inhabitants of these countries should live and to which they must adhere.

The structure of the English court system dictates that it is headed by the Supreme Court of Judicature. This consists of a High Court of Justice for civil cases and a Crown Court for criminal cases.



The Royal Courts of Justice, in London, erected between 1874 and 1882 are England and Wales’ highest civil legal law courts.

At the bottom rung of the ladder is the Magistrate Courts (for criminal cases) and the County Courts (for civil cases). When the Supreme Court makes a decision, it is binding and final and every court beneath it in the hierarchy needs to cooperate.

England does not have a physical, written constitution. Any law that Parliament (and all its members) passes is accepted and not open to review by the courts. So, Parliament can change, add or take away laws without any outside influence. Remember, though, that Parliament is made up of hundreds of qualified, elected members, all helping to make such important decisions for the country.

Interestingly, English Law is the basis of the Common Law. The Common Law is a legal system that holds that it is unfair to treat facts that are similar differently because they occurred or were considered on different occasions. In other words, the main thrust of the precedent is called the Common Law and this is then applied to all future decisions and cases.


The Common Law is the basis of what is used in most of today’s Commonwealth countries. English Law is, in fact, the basis for many of the American legal policies and traditions still operative today. Similarly, places that were previously subject to English Law (such as Australia) still recognise their relationship to and with this legislative system. They often use examples from English Law to support legal arguments in courts. Places like Hong Kong, which was once a jurisdiction under English Law, still adhere to the Common Law as their own.

Because England and Wales are constituents of the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom is part of the European Union, English Law comprises European Union law. Most of the European Union countries, including England, use the civil law system.

The United Kingdom has a dual relationship with international law. This means that international obligations have to be incorporated into English Law formally. Until this is done, courts are under no obligation to apply supranational laws. England is also strongly influenced by Public International Law because it remains such an important element in international trading. Consistency in legal systems and decision making is very important to allow such cooperative, mutually beneficial trade to continue smoothly.

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