Judges and the law
Judges and the law

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Judges and the law

9 Part H Consolidation

The purpose of this part is to bring together your knowledge of law making in the English legal system. Through a series of activities you will be provided with the opportunity to review and consolidate your knowledge of the English legal system gained so far.

Activity 18 Common law

Timing: 0 hours 20 minutes

The term ‘common law’ has a number of meanings. These meanings depend upon the context in which the term is used. Note down the different meanings of the term ‘common law’ you have come across in this course.


  1. Common law may be used to describe a legal system which has developed from the English legal system, for example, in Australia or America.

  2. Common law may be used to distinguish a legal system from a civil law system. Civil law developed from the Romano-Germanic legal system and is the dominant system in much of continental Europe. France has a civil law system.

  3. Common law may be used to mean case law, i.e. where law has been developed through cases using a system of precedent.

  4. Common law may be used to distinguish it from statutory law, for example, murder is a common law offence but the defence of provocation and diminished responsibility are statutory under sections 2 and 3 of the 1957 Homicide Act.

  5. Common law could refer to a system which is common to the whole of the country.

Throughout your law studies you are likely to see the term ‘common law’ used to describe a legal system or the law which results from the operation of the doctrine of precedent.

Activity 19 Domestic sources of law

Timing: 0 hours 20 minutes

Drawing upon your knowledge of how law is made by Parliament or through the courts, construct a diagram of the sources of law you have been introduced to in your law studies so far.


You may have chosen to add more detail, for example, by including each of the rules of statutory interpretation. The first box here refers to ‘domestic’ sources, which are the traditional sources of law in England and Wales.

The final activity will help to further consolidate your studies of this course by considering two controversial cases which were widely reported in the media.

Activity 20 Courts of law and decision making

Timing: 0 hours 30 minutes

For this activity, you will need to read the two transcripts exploring the cases of Tony Martin and the ‘Metric Martyrs’.

Exercise 1 Tony Martin

As you read the attached transcript you may want to take some notes. In particular, think about the contrast between the outcomes for Tony Martin and Terry Reagan.

Now click here [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] to read the transcript of the Tony Martin case (PDF, 0.1 MB, 2 pages).


The case of Tony Martin concerned the common law concept of using reasonable force in self-defence. The clips contrasted the outcome in Martin's case, where he was convicted of murder at his original trial, with that of Terry Reagan, against whom a case was dropped. It illustrates the difficult decisions that have to be made by the judge and jury in the courtroom, and by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service on decisions to prosecute.

Exercise 2 The Metric Martyrs

Again, you may want to take notes as you read the transcript, which explores why the case was brought and the outcomes for the traders involved. It illustrates how and why the appeals process is often used.

Now click here to read the transcript of the Metric Martyrs case (PDF, 0.1 MB, 2 pages).


The case of the Metric Martyrs created many heated debates at the time it was brought. It again illustrates the legal process through which a particular case may go. It also illustrates how the media have reported on European issues such as directives. The case concerned the move to metrication in the UK – a decision which had been taken long before the UK was required to implement a European directive on metrication.


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