Common Law, And The Characteristics Of A Common Law System

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Question 1
a. What is the meaning of the term ‘common law’ and what are the characteristics of a ‘common law’ system?
(Oxford Dictionaries, n.d. a) defines common law as, ‘the part of English Law that is derived from custom and judicial precedent rather than statutes’. This means that this particular type of law, has developed from traditions and perspectives of the law court, rather than from law passed by Parliament.
The main feature of common law is that it is case law centred, and interpreted by a judge; unlike the civil law system, which is based on statutes and legislation. In common law, a judge is presented with a case and will proceed to examine the facts and how the law applies to them, from investigation of relevant statutes and cases. Once the judge has applied the law to the facts, this sets an example which is dictated by the higher court and binds the lower court, ensuring that the courts apply the same principles when presented with a similar case. Stare decisis, is the Latin phrase which is the standard adopted in determining points in common law proceedings according to precedent and simply translates to ‘stand by things decided’. Case law is very well documented and previous precedents are readily available.
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