Doctrine Of Judicial Precedent & Its Hierarchy Of Essay

611 WordsApr 30, 20113 Pages
The doctrine of precedent, or stare decisis, lies at the heart of the English legal system. The doctrine refers to the fact that within the hierarchical structure of the English courts, a decision of a higher court will be binding on a court lower that it in that hierarchy. In general terms this means that when judges try cases they will check to see if a similar situation has come before a court previously. If the precedent was set by a court of equal or higher status to the court deciding the new case, then the judge in the present case should follow the rule of law established in the earlier case. Where the precedent is from a lower court in the hierarchy, the judge in the new case may not follow but will certainly consider it. It is noted that the doctrine of precedent depends for its operation upon the underlying principle that the courts form a hierarchy with each court standing in a definite position in relation to every other court. The structure of this hierarchy must now be considered for the purposes if the doctrine of precedent. Decisions of the highest courts are binding on lower courts. The House of Lords decisions are binding on all other courts in the legal system, except the House of Lords itself. Below the hierarchy, the Divisional Court is bound by decisions of the House of Lords and Court of Appeal in both civil and criminal cases. It is also normally bound by its own previous decisions but subject to the same exceptions laid down for the Court of Appeal, civil division, in Young v Bristol Aeroplane Co Ltd. This would mean for example that if its previous decisions conflict, a Divisional Court may choose which to follow and which to reject. The advantages of the precedent system are said to be consistency, certainty, efficiency and flexibility. Consistency provides a measure of formal justice to the extent that like cases are

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