Law develops essentially by two means; legislation and case law. The latter is uniquely important in the English legal system, as large areas of law have been developed primarily by judges, with comparatively little legislative input. Even if legislation is passed, much of it contains ambiguities (sometimes deliberately!), and it is the role of the judiciary to establish the meaning of the words used, and the intention of Parliament. In theory, the judiciary merely interprets and applies existing law, but in practice much of English Law is judge-made. Does the law keep pace with social and political change, particularly as judges traditionally come from a narrow stratum of society?
Since 1945 the volume and variety of legislation has increased vastly. Governments must be seen to be ‘doing something’ in response to public concerns, if only in pursuit of electoral advantage. In consequence, legislation may be pushed through in a hurry without sufficient thought. International law, though not necessarily binding at domestic level, is a further element. This course looks at the way the law has developed in various areas of controversy, the context of this development, and the position at present.
We begin by looking at the ways in which the law develops (Week 1), followed by a topic of controversy each week.