By Catherine Elliott
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The following are some of the answers that have been suggested. 3 1 What are the four main sources of English law? 2 In what year did the House of Lords declare that it was no longer bound by its previous decisions? 3 What are the four situations where the Court of Appeal Civil Division is not bound by its own decisions? 4 Which of the following courts can create a binding precedent: the High Court, Crown Court, magistrates’ court and county court? 11 .. qxd 4/18/06 8:39 AM Page 12 Part 1 n Sources of law Dworkin: a seamless web of principles Ronald Dworkin argues that judges have no real discretion in making case law.
The most obvious signs of this are the radical changes the House of Lords has made in the ﬁeld of criminal law, since announcing in 1966 that it would no longer be bound by its own decisions. Disadvantages of binding precedent Complexity and volume There are hundreds of thousands of decided cases, comprising several thousand volumes of law reports, and more are added all the time. Judgments themselves are long, with many judges making no attempt at readability, and the ratio decidendi of a case may be buried in a sea of irrelevant material.
This is obviously fairer than allowing each judge to interpret the law differently, and also provides predictability, which makes it easier for people to live within the law. English judgments are frequently quite long, containing quite a lot of comment which is not strictly relevant to the case, as well as an explanation of the legal principles on which the judge has made a decision. The explanation of the legal principles on which the decision is made is called the ratio decidendi – Latin for the ‘reason for deciding’.