Aims and Outcomes
I will describe how precedents are applied in court and explain the rules of statutory interpretation. Firstly I will explain what a precedent is.
“In common law legal systems, a precedent or authority is a legal case establishing a principle or rule that a court or other judicial body utilizes when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts” Example
Let's say that a Court establishes that it is illegal for people to smoke or be in possession of Tobacco. The Court has clearly explained, in its decision, why it is illegal according to law to smoke Tobacco. This is Case A.Now, someone is arrested for smoking Tobacco, and is tried in Court for breach of this new law. The Judges in this case, in order to explain why they are holding the person guilty, will refer to Case A, which put down the principles concerning this offence. Case A thus becomes a precedent.A precedent is usually a decision which is so important and so well explained that it clears the fog surrounding certain issues and, in so doing, guides Courts in the future, whenever any dispute arises concerning those issues. Example 2
A court decision that becomes a rule used to makefuture decisions. For example:The government passes a law saying that ugly shirts may no longer be worn, but doesn't specify what "ugly" means.You wear a lime green shirt and are arrested and found guilty. You appeal the decision. A court decides to write some rules regarding what qualifies as "ugly", so that the lower courts and law enforcement have a better idea what is legal. This decision, if applied broadly to the issue, becomes a judicial precedent thatother courts are meant to follow.It is different from a law because the same court or a higher could decide to change it, setting a new precedent.
How precedents are applied in court
If a Judge in a magistrate’s court makes up a new law, it can be discarded by a judge from a higher up court, but not vice versa. Also if a judge...
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