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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Staple Inn
The Inns of Chancery were a group of buildings and legal institutions in London, initially attached to the Inns of Court and used as offices for the clerks of chancery, from which they drew their name. Existing from at least 1344, the Inns gradually changed their purpose, and became both the offices and accommodation for solicitors (as the Inns of Court were to barristers) and a place of initial training for barristers. The practice of training barristers at the Inns of Chancery had died out by 1642, and the Inns instead became dedicated associations and offices for solicitors. With the founding of the Society of Gentlemen Practisers in 1739 and the Law Society of England and Wales in 1825, a single unified professional association for solicitors, the purpose of the Inns died out, and after a long period of decline the last one (Clement's Inn) was sold in 1903 and demolished in 1934. The only buildings to survive largely intact are those of Staple Inn (pictured). (more...)

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Henry Petre in a biplane
Henry Petre (1884–1962) was an English solicitor who became Australia's first military aviator, and a founding member of the Australian Flying Corps, predecessor of the Royal Australian Air Force. Born in Essex, he forsook his early legal career to pursue an interest in aviation, answering the Australian Defence Department's call for pilots in 1911. He chose the site of the country's first air base at Point Cook, Victoria in 1913, and established its inaugural air training facility, the Central Flying School, with Eric Harrison. Following the outbreak of World War I, Petre was appointed commander of the Mesopotamian Half Flight, the first unit of the newly formed AFC to see active service. His actions in the Middle East earned him the Distinguished Service Order, the Military Cross, and four Mentions in Despatches. Transferring to the Royal Air Force as a Major in 1918, he retired from the military the next year and resumed his civilian practice in law. He continued to fly recreationally before his death in 1962, aged seventy-seven. (more...)

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Cream Holdings Ltd v Banerjee and the Liverpool Post and Echo Ltd was a 2004 decision by the House of Lords on the impact of the Human Rights Act 1998 on freedom of expression. The Act, particularly Section 12, cautioned the courts to only grant remedies that would restrict publication before trial where it is "likely" that the trial will establish that the publication would not be allowed. Banerjee, an accountant with Cream Holdings, obtained documents which she claimed contained evidence of illegal and unsound practices on Cream's part and gave them to the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo, who ran a series of articles on 13 and 14 June 2002 asserting that a director of Cream had been bribing a local council official in Liverpool. Cream applied for an emergency injunction on 18 June in the High Court of Justice, where a judge decided on 5 July that Cream had shown "a real prospect of success" at trial, granting the injunction. This judgment was confirmed by the Court of Appeal on 13 February 2003. Leave was given to appeal to the House of Lords, where a judgment was given on 14 October 2004 by Lord Nicholls, with the other judges assenting. In it, Nicholls said that the test required by the Human Rights Act, "more likely than not", was a higher standard than "a real prospect of success", and that the Act "makes the likelihood of success at the trial an essential element in the court's consideration of whether to make an interim order", asserting that in similar cases courts should be reluctant to grant interim injunctions unless it can be shown that the claimant is "more likely than not" to succeed. At the same time, he admitted that the "real prospect of success" test was not necessarily insufficient, granting the appeal nonetheless because the High Court had ignored the public interest element of the disclosure. As the first confidentiality case brought after the Human Rights Act, Cream is the leading case used in British "breach of confidentiality" cases. (more...)

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The Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that reformed the auxiliary forces of the British Army by transferring existing Volunteer and Yeomanry units into a new Territorial Force; and disbanding the Militia to form a new Special Reserve of the Regular Army. This reorganisation formed a major part of the Haldane Reforms, named after the creator of the Act, Richard Haldane. The Act followed the South African War of 1899-1902, which had reinforced the idea that the regular Army was not capable of fighting a prolonged full-scale war without significant assistance. There had been no thought before the war to using auxiliary forces overseas; in the event, volunteers had been used on an ad-hoc basis, and a new auxiliary arm (the Imperial Yeomanry) was formed to provide specialist troops, but it was clear that a more effective system was required in future. A number of attempts at reform under the Conservative government of 1901-1905 had failed to make any lasting changes to the system, and left the auxiliary forces disorganised and demoralised. In December 1905, Haldane was appointed as Secretary of State for War, and immediately set about reforming the Army to best prepare it for an intervention in a European war. The Act was repealed in 1966. (more...)

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Viscount Sankey, stating the principle of the presumption of innocence in Woolmington v DPP (1935)

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