The nature of law in society

1. The English legal system of law is based on the age-old system of precedent, which can be strict and inflexible. It has slowly been evolving over time and can be traced back as far as 1066. Before the Norman Conquest there was no centralised legal system. Different areas of England were governed by different systems of law: Dane law applied in the North, Mercian – in the Midlands, and Wessex law around South and West. They all were based on local custom, which varied from place to place.

The king had little control over the country, and there was no effective central government. It was a system for the aristocracy, landowners or merchants. However, the administrative ability of the Normans began to process destined to lead to a unified system of law, which was nevertheless evolutionary in its development. The Normans were not concerned to change English customary law entirely by imposing Norman law on England. When William the Conquer came to the English throne in 1066, he established a strong central government and began to standardize the law.

His representatives were sent out to the countryside to check local administration, and were given the job of adjudicating in local disputes, according to local law. This process enriched for two centuries and the principle of "stare decisis"(let the decision stand) grew up. Whenever the judge decided a new problem in a case brought before him, this became a new rule of law and was followed by subsequent judges. Later this practise crystallised into the form, which is known as the binding form of judicial precedent, and the judges felt bound to follow previous decisions instead of looking to them for guidance.

By this means the common law earned the status of a system and the principles of common law are still used today. The common law is a judge-made system of law and it had been produced, that ruled the whole country, would be applied consistently and could be used to predict what a court might decide in a particular case. It contained many of those points that are now basic of English law – divorce belongs to the civil system for example and murdering to the criminal.

Since the thirteen's century the common law became more self-conscious about what to do and became more systematic. There is much talk now about the proper way of doing things, of not being able to do this or that and much clever reasoning. As I mentioned before The English Legal System has slowly been evolving over the years and its became much easier and much clever for everybody. Certain characteristics help to distinguish this law system from any other, such as the law of precedent, which is the basis of common law.

So this shows that society needs a system of law, and if we didn't have a legal system there would be more time and money spent on cases and everything would be as much complicated, as it was thousands years ago before the Norman Conquest. 2. But the fact is that English law changes as people and society change and it needs to be flexible to meet the needs of a changing society. Lord Denning (1952) gave a lecture called "The need for a New Equity". He argued that judges became too fearful and hesitant about adapting the law to changing conditions of society.

Lord Denning felt that the judges were leaving the law to the Parliament, which was too slow and unwieldy to do he job properly. Lord Scarman, in McLoughlin v O'Brian (1982) felt that the risk was not that case law might develop too far, but that it stood still, and didn't adapt to the changing needs of society. Paterson's survey of 19 Law lords (1967-1973) found that the Law Lords had a duty to develop the common law in response to changing social conditions. Fitzpatrick v Sterling Housing Association Ltd (2000) is a case where judges showed themselves willing to change the law in the light of social change.

The case concerned a homosexual man, Mr Fitzpatrick, who lived with Mr Thomson (his partner) for 18 years. Mr Fitzpatrick was nursing and caring for Mr Thomson after he had an accident that caused irreversible brain damage and paralyse. After Mr Thomson died in 1994 his partner applied for the tendency of Thomson's flat in which they lived together, which gave the tenant certain protection under the Rent Act. The landlords refused. The Rent Act 1977 states that when a statutory tenant dies, the tenancy by a husband or wife, or a member of the family who was living with the tenant.

Mr Fitzpatrick was in a close relationship with Mr Thomson, so his case sought to establish that he was a member of Mr Thomson's family. The Court of Appeal agreed that the couple could be a family and they pointed out that discriminating against same-sex relationships was out of step with the values of modern society. They also recognized that the law on succession to relevant tenancies was firmly rooted in the idea that families were based on marriage or kinship, and had only been concentrated on heterosexual couples living together as if married.

The Court of Appeal concluded that it would wrong to change the law by interpreting the word family to include same-sex couples. All three judges agreed that these certain changes should be made, but it should be made by parliament. However, the House of Lords diverged the Court's decision. It ruled that the appellant could not be a spouse of the dead tenant, but as a matter of law a same-sex partner could establish the familial link for the purposes of the legislation.