The Legal System
There are five main aspects of the legal system in the United Kingdom.1 All of them are significantly affected by the peculiar nature of the British constitution, which is uncodified and which vests supreme legal power and authority in Parliament rather than in any Court. Firstly, there is the sphere of criminal justice which involves the application of the criminal law to cases brought to Court by the prosecuting authorities and others. Secondly, there is the sphere of civil justice which involves the application of the civil law to cases brought by various plaintiffs, including individuals, corporate bodies and the Law Officers of the Crown. Thirdly, there is the process of judicial appeal which allows those who are dissatisfied with the verdicts of lower Courts or Tribunals to seek redress or reversal of judgement in the higher Courts of Appeal. Fourthly, there is the important sphere of rights and duties which determines the complex legal relationship between citizens and the state. Finally, there is the sphere of administrative law which enables the courts to review the actions of Ministers, local authorities and other public bodies. This chapter reviews each of these aspects in turn. It does so against a contemporary backdrop which reveals declining public confidence in the police and the judicial system, an increasingly relevant European context, and mounting pressure for significant reform.
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