The legal system

  • F. N. Forman
  • N. D. J. Baldwin
Part of the Macmillan Master Series book series (MACMMA)


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. They are:
  1. 1.

    The sphere of criminal justice, which involves the application of the criminal law to cases brought to Court by the prosecuting authorities and others.

  2. 2.

    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.

  3. 3.

    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.

  4. 4.

    The important sphere of civil rights and duties, which determines the complex legal relationship between citizens and the state.

  5. 5.

    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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Further reading

  1. Bradley, R., Public Expectations and Perceptions of Policing, Police Research Series Paper 96 (London: Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, 1998).Google Scholar
  2. Clothier, C.M., Ombudsman: Jurisdiction, Powers and Practise (Manchester: Manchester Statistical Society, 1981).Google Scholar
  3. de Smith, S. and Brazier, R., Constitutional and Administrative Law, 6th edn (London: Penguin, 1990).Google Scholar
  4. Dickson, B., The Legal System of Northern Ireland, 2nd edn (1989).Google Scholar
  5. Griffith, J.A.G., The Politics of the Judiciary, 5th edn (London: Fontana, 1997).Google Scholar
  6. Ingleton, R., Arming the British Police (London: Frank Cass, 1997).Google Scholar
  7. Jackson, R.M., et al., The Machinery of Justice in England, 8th edn (London: CUP, 1989).Google Scholar
  8. Morris, T., Crime and Criminal Justice since 1945 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989).Google Scholar
  9. ‘Police Reform’, Cmnd 2281 (London: HMSO, 1993).Google Scholar
  10. Reiner, R., The Politics of the Police, 2nd edn (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992).Google Scholar
  11. ‘Rights Brought Home: The Human Rights Bill’ (CM 3782), (London: Stationery Office, 1997).Google Scholar
  12. Robertson, G., Street’s Freedom: The Individual and the Law, 6th edn (London: Penguin, 1989).Google Scholar
  13. ‘Report of the Inquiry into Police Responsibilities and Rewards’, Vols I and II, CM2280-T/CM 2280-II, 30 June 1993.Google Scholar
  14. Stainsby, P., Tribunal Practise and Procedure (London: Law Society, 1988).Google Scholar
  15. Wade, H.W.R., Administrative Law, 6th edn (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  16. Walker D.M., The Scottish Legal System, 6th edn (1992).Google Scholar
  17. Wright, A., Citizens and Subjects (London: Routledge, 1993).Google Scholar


  1. Amnesty International
  2. Lord Chancellor’s Department

Copyright information

© F.N. Forman and N.D.J. Baldwin 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. N. Forman
  • N. D. J. Baldwin

There are no affiliations available

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