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Judges and the law
Judges and the law

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3.5 Summary of Part B

In Part B you have learned that:

  • the system of precedent requires later courts to use the same reasoning as an earlier court, where two cases raise the same legal issues;

  • the contents of a case report can be divided into two categories:

    • ratio decidendi – the statement of legal principles essential to the decision. The ratio is the binding element of the case

    • obiter dictum – any statement of law that is not an essential part of the judgment. The obiter is never binding, but can be persuasive authority which can be taken into consideration in later cases;

  • the main ways in which judges can alter or avoid precedents are:

    • overruling – where the court sets aside a legal ruling established in a previous case

    • distinguishing – if the court regards the facts of the current case as materially different from previous decisions, then the court will not apply the precedent, as it will not be relevant to the current case.