Judicial Precedent in the English Legal System

3896 words 16 pages
The doctrine of judicial precedent is based on the principle of stare decisis which means ‘to stand by what has been decided’. It is a common law principle whereby judges are bound to follow previous decisions in cases where the material facts are sufficiently similar and the earlier decision was made in a court above the current one in the court hierarchy. This doctrine of precedent is extremely strong in English law as it ensures fairness and consistency and it highlights the importance of case law in our legal system. Black's Law Dictionary defines "precedent" as a "rule of law established for the first time by a court for a particular type of case and thereafter referred to in deciding similar cases."

For this system to operate
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These can be found in Law Reports. It is crucial that accurate records are available so that it is possible for the binding and persuasive precedents to be found. One example of a law report is the All England Law Report, law reports are also found in the media, The Times publishes law reports weekly. The reports contain all relevant information relating to the case – names of litigants, cases used, solicitors, barristers, a summary of the facts and the judgement itself.

There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to judicial precedent and how it operates in the courts in England and Wales, most advantages have corresponding disadvantages.

One advantage is the certainty it provides, as the courts follow past decisions. Due to this certainty people are more aware of what the law is and have a better idea of how it may be applied in their case. In the House of Lords Practice Statement 1966 it points out how important certainty within the law is.

Another advantage is consistency and fairness in the law so it can be seen that similar cases are decided in a similar way. In order for law to be credible it must be consistent. For example, the ratio of R v Howe that duress is no defence to the charge of murder must be followed in cases of similar material fact.

There is a wealth of detail contained in the reported cases. The principles set out in the cases are a response to real


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