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Published: Fri, 02 Feb 2018

The rule of law in uk

The rule of law is one of the fundamental principles of UK’ s unwritten or uncodified constitution .The key idea of the rule of law is that the law should apply equally to all ,rulers and ruled alike. This ,in the words of the 19-century constitution expert ,A.V.Diecy ensures a ‘ government of law’ and not a ‘government of men ‘. The alternative to the rule of law is there for arbitrary government. In this way, the rule of law establishes the relationship between government and the people. AS John Lock put it, ‘whenever law ends, tyranny begins,

Furthermore, the rule of law is the principle that the law should rule in the sense that it applies to all conduct and behavior and covers both private and public officials . the most important sub principles of the rule of law are that no one is above the law , that there is equality for all before the law, that the law is always applied and that legal redress is available through the courts .

However , the rule of law is a complex principle , and it is best explained as a collection of subprinciples .There has been ,moreover, significant debate about how far the law ‘rules’ the UK . Harden and Lewis (1988) even describe the rule of law as the ‘noble lie’ of the British constitution. As previously mentioned, the rule of law, has been created to ensure that:

  1. No One Is ‘Above’ The Law

This implies that every one is bound by the law. The law applies to ministers and public officials as well as other members of society. This is supposed to ensure that public officials use their power reasonably and do not exceed the limits placed on its use. This aspect of the rule of law is upheld through administrative law and by the practice of judicial review.

How ever, concerns have been expressed about the extent to which this principle applies in the UK.

  1. Many of the powers of the prime minister and other ministers are based on the Royal prerogative, which is not subject to judicial oversight.

  2. As parliament is sovereign, it can make, unmake and amend any law it whishes and son on, in that sense, it is ‘above ‘the law.

  3. The principle of parliamentary privilege means the MPs and peers are not subject to legal restrictions on what they can say in parliament

  4. The Queen, as head of the legal system, is not properly subject to the law.

All these aspects can undermine ‘No one is ‘above’ the law .moreover they are not illegal actions and can not be prosecuted as an illegal action.

2) Equality Before The Law

The law is meant to treat all citizens alike; it is no respecter of persons .All people should therefore have the same legal rights and have the same legal rights and have the same access to the legal system. Consideration of Race, Colour, Creed, Religion, Wealth, social status and official position must be irrelevant to how people are treated by the court system.

However, concerns have been expressed about the extent to which this principle applies in the UK:

  1. Legal disputes may be prohibitively costly, for many, and only the wealthy can afford to be represented by top lawyers.

  2. Access to legal aid is not always easy and may exclude people from middle-income groups

  3. Judges may be biased against ,for instance .women, ethnic minorities and the poor because they tend to come from narrow and privileged social and educational background

  4. The Law Is Always Applied.

Disputes must be resolved by the application of the law rather than by other means. This means that there must be a certainty of punishment for breaches of law –law cannot apply in certain circumstances, but not in others. By the same token, there should be punishment only for breaches of law- people should not be penalized except through the due process of law.

However, concerns have been expressed about the extent to which this principle applies in the UK;

  1. Not all crimes are reported and therefore legally addressed ( this applies, for instance, in the case of most rapes)

  2. As polices resources are limited many crimes are not detected ( for example , speeding offences)

  3. ‘Trial by the media ‘means that people may be punished without legal proceeding having taken, or, perhaps, despite being acquitted.

  4. Legal Redress Is Available Through The Courts

If people’s rights have been infringed (whether by other citizens, organizations or the state,) they should be able to protect themselves through the law. For many legal experts and a growing body of senior judges this implies that the law should defend fundamental human rights .This is the aspect of the rule of law that safeguards the individuals from the state.

However, concerns have been expressed about the extent to which this principle applies in the UK:

  1. There is no entrenched bill of right to protect fundamental human rights

  2. The Human Rights Act can be set aside if parliament whishes.

  3. Access to European Court of Human Rights is expensive and time-consuming.

5) Judge’s Independence

One crucial aspect of the role of the law is that judges are meant to be strictly impartial and non-political .This is one of the basic differences between liberal democratic countries and authoritarian regimes. In the later , the courts simply become instrument of the state .In the Soviet Union ,for example ,judges applied what was called ‘social legality ‘ ,during the 1930s in particular. Show trial were used to expose and punish opponents of the regime .By contrast, in liberal democracies, the authority of the law is linked to the fact that it is supposed to be non-political. This, in turn, is based on the assumption that the law is interpreted by judges who are independent and impartial.

On the other hand, in UK, in view of the potential political significance of judicial decision, the independence of judges is always a principle under pressure. Traditionally, the main concern about the effectiveness of the judicial independence focused on appointment process .While that was controlled by prime minister and the Lord Chancellor, and so long as the Lord Chancellor’s office fused the roles of head of the judiciary and cabinet minister, judicial independence always appear to be a constitutional fiction. This concern has substantially been addressed though the establishment of the judicial appointment commission.

A second concern about judicial about judicial independence stems from a growing willingness of ministers publicly criticize the courts .This has particularly applied in the case of successive home secretaries .Examples of this includes :

1) In 2003, David Blunkett condemned the release of the nine afghan hijackers

2) In 2005, Charles Clarke criticized the release of terrorist suspects from Belmaresh .

3) In 2007, John Reid attacked the decision not to deport the murders of the London headmaster, Philip Lawrence, when hi is released.

In conclusion, the constitution, in any county, has a major impact on judicial system. As a result, the distinctive UK‘s constitution has had influences on judicial system also. The fact that UK’s constitution grants a lot power to parliament is obvious .In other words, to some extent, parliament can set aside any provisions of the rule of law if it wishes ,For instance, nowadays, they are debates about the invasion of Iraq which claim that the invasion was an illegal action and directly against law. Since, the membership of UK in European Union the Judicial system has also been influenced by European treaties such as changing the highest court of appeal from House of lord to European court of justice.

Although, the vagueness, in the principles of the rule of the law exists by virtue of parliamentary sovereignty, the rule of law has also achieved, to some extent, its goals.

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