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Dreana Marshall

The Common Law

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Introduction to Common Law

Common Law


         The primary sources of law: Legislation and Precedent.

         Legislation - statutes (Acts of Parliament), statutory rules and regulations

         Precedent - what has gone before. To follow a past decision is to use a precedent.

         Common law systems- Systems which are based on English Law

         Traditional law - is law that has evolved from decisions of English courts going back to 1066.

         Judge-made law - law based on decisions by judges.

         Common law - that comes from the common people, versus legislation, which, comes from the "experts."

         "Shared law"- the law common to the whole of England.

         Grounds for deciding cases are found in precedents provided by past decisions

         Civil law system, Grounds for deciding cases are based on statutes and prescribed texts.

         "stare decisis,"- "to stand by the decision."



The common laws


1.       Rules to deal with threats to people's safety - murder, rape, and assault.

2.       Rules about damaged to private property - fraud and cheating.

3.       Rules about protecting people's reputation - libel and slander

4.       Rules about religious sensibilities –blasphemy

5.       Rules about public - morals obscenity

6.       Rules about the independence of judges - contempt



What is "common" about the Common Law?


Until the 12th century, law in the western world consisted of written laws, called Civil Laws, all traceable to Roman Law. This basic system still prevails in many countries. However, after the Norman conquest of Britain in 1066, a legal tradition called the "common law," different from that of civil law, began to develop in England. In the 1100s during the reign of the legal reformer, Henry II, court decisions were written down and catalogued according to the types of cases.


The common law was primarily concerned with the problems like that one. How can we keep ourselves safe? How do we protect our property? What can we do if someone injures us, or damages the things we own?


Dreana Marshall