This purpose of this essay is to analyse the quotation "… the law is never static; it is always changing, being interpreted or redefined, as regulators and judges strive, with varying degrees of success, to ensure that the law constantly reflects changes in society itself". In order to do this, there will be a consideration of the law and its main sources as well as discussion of how these laws can and must change to reflect the needs of society.
There will be an assessment of the relationship between the law and social change and an evaluation of the success of regulators and judges to ensure that the law reflects these changes. Firstly, consideration of how laws in the UK are made; Laws made by Parliament, Acts, start in various ways as Bills presented to Parliament and must go through various stages of approval, by both the House of Commons and the Lords and formally agreed to by the reigning monarch, in the form of Royal Assent in order to become part of the UK Law or change an existing law.
The majority are Public Bills, presented by a minister, dealing with matters affecting the general population. Private Members Bills are similar except they are presented by MPs or Lords who are not government ministers. A minority of these become law as less time is allocated to them but, by creating publicity around an issue, they may affect legislation indirectly. Private Bills are usually promoted by organisations, such as local authorities or private companies. These bills can only change or over-ride the law towards a specific minority rather than the entire country.
They can be opposed by people who would be directly affected by the outcome for example. if a company wanted to build a new railway line. Most government bills become Acts of Parliament while very few of the many private Bills pass through. Bills originate in various ways: Party manifestos where a government promises something, such as economic stability or improved schooling, as part of its election campaign and then implements its promise with a bill. Bills can arise in response to national emergencies or in response to new technology such as human reproductive technologies.
There are many influences operating on Parliament during the legislative process including Law commissions, Royal commissions and pressure groups. The law commission established by the Law Commission Act 1965 is an independent body which reviews UK law and recommends reforms, suggesting abolishing old laws or amendments to existing laws, for example the 1956 Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce (p58, Block 7, Justice), Pressure groups have the advantage of allowing particular concerns to be raised within the political system but they may clash with authorities and even stop beneficial change.
EU law despite not having been approved by the UK parliament still has an influence over UK law and, where relevant, the UK is bound by that law and cannot make conflicting laws. The UK is also party to the European Convention of Human Rights which has been assimilated into English law covering basics such as the right to life, and anti-discrimination. Any new legislation must be compatible with the Convention which can be problematic. Historically, the judiciary has affected the law in the UK.
Judges would travel the country ensuring that the law was implemented becoming a 'common law' rather than regional law, bringing about a consistency and fairness to the law. The law develops in the courts over time, case by case and through established practice or 'precedent' known as stare decisis meaning 'to adhere to decided cases'. The advantage of precedent is that previous interpretations of laws can be cited ensuring consistency although sometimes this is a disadvantage as it does not allow for change for example in the law concerning marital rape.
Judges, who are practicing the law, are able to ensure that a statute is interpreted correctly, giving a flexibility without waiting for Parliament's lengthy processes. This 'statutory interpretation' influences future use of the law and help it to adapt in a workable way, keeping up with modern social developments. While this system leads to the fairness and clarity of statutory interpretation judges are not elected but have an effect on our laws and so on our lives. The UK courts are split into a hierarchy which practices the law at all levels, interacting with the general public across both civil and criminal matters.
The hierarchy system means that decisions can be checked or overruled by higher courts to take into account changing social conditions. This starts with the Magistrates courts, the Crown and County Courts, High Court, Court of Appeal and finally the House of Lords. Each court is bound by the decisions of its superior court and must follow the higher courts principles in future cases. The House of Lords' decisions are binding over all UK courts Decisions in the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice also have an influence over the relevant laws overruling domestic precedent.
The Law-making system in England and Wales is based on a democratically elected Parliament so that the general public can have an effect on changing laws. A general election every five years ensures that the government does not remain in power against the wishes of the people. There are flaws to this – people vote according to manifesto promises but these are not always adhered to after election to government as they are not legally enforceable. However, the government must account for broken promises.
The election system is not proportionally representative so a government may not have a majority of public support despite winning a majority of constituent seats. This means that a powerful government can push a law through despite having the support of a minority of the country. Occasionally the government tries to keep its manifestos promises but the lengthy procedures make it impossible. The system does allow for a speedier procedure if necessary in response to an unexpected event for example, The Human Reproductive cloning Act 2001 which was enacted in just nine days.