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Starting with law: An overview of the law
Starting with law: An overview of the law

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Y166 Glossary

Glossary for Y166 Starting with law

Browse the glossary using this index

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Actus Reus

Actus Reus  A gulty act, strictly means that a person is not liable for his acts alone, but only if he acts with a guilty mind


This means speaking on behalf of another. It is used to refer to a person who acts as a legal representative of one of the parties in a case, speaking for the party in court.



This is the release of a person (generally accused of a crime) on a promise to return (either to a police station or to a court). It means that the person is at liberty rather than in custody while awaiting the outcome of an investigation or court case. There is a presumption that bail will be granted unless there are good reasons for refusing it.


A bill is a proposal for a new law. It must then go through all the necessary stages in the UK Parliament, and only if it is passed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords and receives royal assent will it become an Act of Parliament. A bill becomes law on its commencement date.


Civil justice system

This term is used to refer to the system that has been created to hear civil law matters.

civil law

regulate disputes


Constitutions set out the rights and duties of the state and its citizens. The UK’s constitution is unwritten and is therefore to be found in a variety of sources, including Acts of Parliament and case law. A constitution outlines the basic law of a state, regulating how it is governed.

Criminal justice system

The criminal justice system deals with criminal cases. The term is used to refer to both the courts that hear initial cases and the appeals structure. Criminal cases usually start in a magistrates’ court but the more serious cases will be heard in a crown court.


Employment law

This is the law that governs employees’ and employers’ rights and responsibilities. Employers’ responsibilities include ensuring the health and safety of employees. In return, employees’ responsibilities include the exercise of reasonable skill and care at work, and they have the right to be paid for their labour.

European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

The ECHR is an international treaty drawn up after the Second World War and designed to prevent the abuse of citizens’ rights by their government. It sets out the individual rights and freedoms that must be protected by the countries that have ratified the Convention.

Since the Human Rights Act 1998 came into force in the UK, public authorities are required to ensure that their actions are consistent with the provisions of the ECHR. Law-making bodies must ensure that all new laws comply with the provisions of the Convention.

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