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Common Law

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Common Law

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Common Law

Common law — that is, laws drawn not from statutes, but from precedents set by judgments in cases — were long regarded as the heart of the British legal system. In the last century, statutory law has become more important than common law in most legal cases. However, most of these laws tend to be based on the assumption that common law is “right”. Most contract law, for example, is still founded on common law principles. The term itself stems from the local courts of medieval England, which often had their own laws while still being bound by national laws.

An often-cited example of rights in common law today are those pertaining to marriage, where a couple may have lived together for many years without actually going through a formal ceremony and registration. However, this is something of a misconception, as common-law marriage formally ceased to be recognised by the Marriage Act of 1753.

Photo: Maria Gibbs


Your comments

Common Law is almost a thousand years old, first established by Henry II. It is a system which is widely accepted (and adopted) as the most consistent form of law. It's adversarial, which means there is potentially justice for all. Common law interprets the letter of the law whereas Roman Law interprets the spirit of the code and is arguably less consistent.

Tamar Good

Your site purports to be about icons of England. It then talks about how the common was "long regarded as the heart of the British legal system.". I feel bound to point out.... (a) There is no "British" legal system. Britain comprises Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales AND England. These jurisdictions have their own legal systems (although E&W are effectively one system). As your site is about English icons, your text would be better saying (e.g.) ".. the heart of the English legal system, among others." (b) Britain is NOT England. (c) England is NOT Britiain.

While I can go along with the iconic status of English Common Law, the article is poorly written, e.g. the recognition of Common Law marriage ended with the Marriage Act of 1753. Although Common Law court judgements have given some rights to cohabitees, they do not come anywhere near those of married couples or same sex civil partnerships.

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I believe rice, peas and jerk chicken is an Icon of England.

Ade Adeluwoye