Judicial Precedent

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PRECEDENT:
Stare Decisis - Stand by the Decision
The doctrine of judicial precedent is based on the principle of stare decisis, this means that like cases should be treated alike. Once a point of law has been decided in a particular case, that law must be applied in all future cases containing the same material facts. For example in the case “Donoghue v Stevenson (1932), The House of Lords held that the manufacturer owed the duty of care to the ultimate consumer of the product. This set a binding precedent which was followed in Grant v Australian Knitting Mills [1936]. In order for the doctrine of judicial precedent to work, it is necessary to be able to determine what a point of law is. The legal principle to be derived from the judge’s decision on the basis of facts regarded by the judge as a material known as “ratio decidendi”. Which is a binding precedent meaning it must be followed in future cases containing the same material facts. Any other statements of law that are not relevant to the decision are “obiter dicta”. ‘Things said by the way’. The ratio difficult to find equally difficult to distinguish with obiter. The general rule is that all courts are bound to follow decisions made by courts higher than themselves in the hierarchy and appellate courts are usually bound by their own previous decisions. Precedent within the Hierarchy of the Courts:

1.The Supreme court/House of Lords:
The decisions of the Supreme Court are binding on all lower court. They were also binding on the Supreme Court itself as it was reaffirmed in the famous case of “London Tramways Co v. London County Council”. However, the rule became very rigid resulted in lots of uncertainty over the period. Lord Chancellor Gardiner eventually changed this policy (Departing from its previous decision) through the practice statement 1966. Since 1966 House of Lords/Supreme court has used this power quite sparingly. It will refuse to follow earlier decision due to changing in...
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