Caven blog

What are the sources of UK law?

UK law comes from three main sources: legislation, case law and European law. When we consider the sources of UK law we must consider that the UK is made up of four different countries and as a result the sources of law vary between those countries.

Scotland has its own system of laws and courts and its own Parliament. Northern Ireland has a similar system to that of England and Wales. England and Wales have the same legal system and laws passed by the UK Parliament automatically apply to Wales. The Welsh Assembly has created some measures resulting in different law in Wales, although this has yet to produce any significant differences.

Ireland has a different legal system, so if you want legal advice in Ireland, you will need to find solicitors in Ireland, rather than using other UK solicitors.

Legislation

The main source of law for the UK is legislation, which is law passed by Parliament. Primary legislation will come into force following debate and subsequent approval in the House of Commons, approval in the House of Lords and will then receive Royal Assent if it is to become law. Secondary legislation is law made outside of Parliament where the power to make law has previously been granted by Parliament in a ‘Parent Act’. This means that Parliament delegates the power to make legislation to another body.

Case law

Case law is another important source of UK law. It is worth noting that while the case law governing England and Wales is the same, case law governing Scotland is different. English law has developed through case law with a decision of a court binding lower courts to enforce the same decision. The system of setting precedent ensures certainty in the law, as once a decision has been made on a point of law, that decision must be followed by other courts.

EU law

EU law is also an important source of UK law. EU law can be made in a number of ways, including law in treaties, regulations, directions and decisions. These types of law are binding on Member States and must be adhered to. The European Court of Justice will also make decisions on cases that come from UK courts and the decisions will be binding.

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