Practice Statement

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The Practice Statement [1966] 3 All ER 77[1] was a statement made in the House of Lords by Lord Gardiner LC on July 26, 1966 on behalf of himself and the Lords of Appeal in ordinary, that they would depart from precedent in the Lords in order to achieve justice.

Background[edit]

Until 1966, the House of Lords in the United Kingdom was bound to follow all of its previous decisions under the principle of stare decisis, even if this created "injustice" and "unduly restrict(s) the proper development of the law" (London Tramways Co. v London County Council [1898] AC 375). The Practice Statement 1966 is authority for the House of Lords to depart from their previous decisions. It does not affect the precedential value of cases in lower courts; all other courts that recognise the Supreme Court(formerly the House of Lords)as the [court of last resort] are still bound by Supreme Court decisions. Before this, the only way a binding precedent could be avoided was to create new legislation on the matter.

Content[edit]

This is the text of the Practice Statement:

Their Lordships regard the use of precedent as an indispensable foundation upon which to decide what is the law and its application to individual cases. It provides at least some degree of certainty upon which individuals can rely in the conduct of their affairs, as well as a basis for orderly development of legal rules.

Their Lordships nevertheless recognise that too rigid adherence to precedent may lead to injustice in a particular case and also unduly restrict the proper development of the law. They propose therefore, to modify their present practice and, while treating former decisions of this house as normally binding, to depart from a previous decision when it appears right to do so.

In this connection they will bear in mind the danger of disturbing retrospectively the basis on which contracts, settlement of property, and fiscal arrangements have been entered into and also the especial need for certainty as to the criminal law.

This announcement is not intended to affect the use of precedent elsewhere than in this House.

Lord Gardiner's statement in the House of Lords, July 26, 1966.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ See also [1966] 1 WLR 1234; [1966] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 151; (1986) 83 Cr. App. R. 191 (Note); (1966) 110 S.J. 584