Portal:Law of England and Wales

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The Law of England and Wales Portal

English law is the legal system of England and Wales, and is the basis of common law legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries and the United States (as opposed to civil law or pluralist systems in use in other countries). It was exported to Commonwealth countries while the British Empire was established and maintained, and it forms the basis of the legal systems of most of those countries. England and Wales are constituent countries of the United Kingdom; Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legal systems, although in some areas of law there are no differences between the jurisdictions. Whilst Wales has a devolved Assembly, its power to legislate is limited by the Government of Wales Act 2006.

English law is a mixture of common law, legislation passed by the UK Parliament (or subordinate legislation made under delegated authority) and European law. The essence of common law is that it is made by judges sitting in courts, applying their common sense and knowledge of legal precedent (stare decisis) to the facts before them. A decision of the highest appeal court in England and Wales, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, is binding on every other court in the hierarchy. Common law can be altered by Parliament. The oldest statute currently in force is the Distress Act 1267, part of the Statute of Marlborough. Three sections of Magna Carta, originally signed in 1215 and a landmark in the development of English law, are still in force, but they date to the reissuing of the law in 1297. European law applies in England and Wales because the UK is a member of the European Union, and so the European Court of Justice can direct English and Welsh courts on the meaning of areas of law in which the EU has passed legislation. (more about English law...)

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Tracing in English law is a procedure to identify property (such as money) that has been taken from the claimant involuntarily. It is not in itself a way to recover the property, but rather to identify it so that the courts can decide what remedy to apply. The procedure is used in several situations, broadly demarcated by whether the property has been transferred because of theft, breach of trust, or mistake. Tracing is divided into two forms, common law tracing and equitable tracing. Common law tracing relies on the claimant having legal ownership of the property, and will fail if the property has been mixed with other property, the legal title has been transferred to the defendant, or the legal title has been transferred by the defendant to any further recipient of the property. Equitable tracing, on the other hand, relies on the claimant having an equitable interest in the property, and can succeed where the property has been mixed with other property. Defences to tracing are possible, particularly if returning the property would harm an innocent defendant, where the claimant has made false representations that the defendant relied on to his detriment, or where the property has been transferred to an innocent third party without anything given to the defendant in return that the claimant could recover in lieu. (more...)

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William Garrow
Sir William Garrow (1760–1840) was a British barrister, politician and judge known for his indirect reform of the advocacy system, which helped usher in the adversarial court system used in most common law nations today. He introduced the phrase "innocent until proven guilty", insisting that defendants' accusers and their evidence be thoroughly tested in court. Garrow was called to the Bar in 1783 and quickly established a reputation as a criminal law barrister, particularly for the defendants. He was returned to Parliament in 1805 for Gatton, a rotten borough, and became Solicitor General in 1812, then Attorney General a year later. In 1817 he was made a Baron of the Exchequer and Serjeant-at-Law, forcing his resignation from Parliament, and he spent the next 15 years as a judge. He was not noted as particularly successful in the commercial cases the Exchequer specialised in, but when on Assize used his criminal law knowledge from his years at the Bar to great effect. His work was cited as recently as 1982 in the Supreme Court of Canada and 2006 in the Irish Court of Criminal Appeal. In 2009, BBC One broadcast Garrow's Law, a four-part fictionalised drama of Garrow's first days in the Old Bailey. (more...)

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Captain Thomas Baillie

R v Baillie, also known as the "Greenwich Hospital Case', was a 1778 prosecution of Thomas Baillie (pictured) for criminal libel which launched the legal career of Thomas Erskine. Baillie, the Lieutenant-Governor of the Greenwich Hospital for Seamen, had noted irregularities and corruption in the hospital, which was formally run by the Earl of Sandwich. Unable to bring about reform, Baillie published a pamphlet alleging that Sandwich had given appointments to pay off political debts. Charged with criminal libel, Baillie hired five barristers, including Erskine, then newly called to the Bar. In his speech, Erskine accused Sandwich of cowardice and argued that Baillie was merely doing his duty by attempting to bring the problems with the hospital into the public eye. Erskine was successful in having Baillie found not guilty, and after leaving the court was met with a standing ovation; Emory Speer writes that "It is probably true that never did a single speech so completely insure professional success". (more...)

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The Trustee Act 2000 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that regulates the duties of trustees in English trust law. Reform in these areas had been advised as early as 1982, and finally came about through the Trustee Bill 2000, based on the Law Commission's 1999 report "Trustees' Powers and Duties", which was introduced to the House of Lords in January 2000. The bill received the Royal Assent on 23 November 2000 and came into force on 1 February 2001 through the Trustee Act 2000 (Commencement) Order 2001, a Statutory Instrument, with the Act having effect over England and Wales. The Act (which is still in force) covers five areas of trust law: the duty of care imposed upon trustees, trustees' power of investment, the power to appoint nominees and agents, the power to acquire land, and the power to receive remuneration for work done as a trustee. It sets a new duty of care, both objective and standard, massively extends the trustees' power of investment and limits the trustees' liability for the actions of agents, also providing for their remuneration for work done in the course of the trust. (more...)

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Lord Denning, discussing the Treaty of Rome in his judgment in H.P. Bulmer Ltd v J. Bollinger SA (1974)

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