Judicial Precedent

Tags: Judiciary, Justice of the Peace, Courts of England and Wales



Judicial Precedent is a decision of the court used as a source for future decision making. In Judicial Precedent the decision made in superiors are binding on subsequent cases in lower courts on the same or similar facts.

The doctrine of judicial Precedent did not become fully established until the second half of the nineteenth century. In the Common law Courts in the United Kingdom the procedure was to apply the theory of the common law, which as simply customs of the land. Decisions by the judges were made on these common customs, although they regarded precedent as persuasive. As time passed, judges paid more and more attention to previous decisions. One important and distinctive element of the English law is that the reasoning and decisions found in preceding cases were not simply considered as a guide. They could be considered binding on later courts. This is known as stare decisis (let the decision stand). This means that when a court makes a decision in a case, then any court which are of equal or lower status to that court must follow the previous decision if the case before them is similar to that of the earlier case. Thus, once a court as decided on a matter other inferior courts are bound to follow the decision.

In the mid nineteenth century the House of Lords developed the practice that it would be bound by its own decision. It felt that the decision of the highest appeal court should be find in the public interest so that there would be certainty in the law. Thus, in MIREHOUSE V RENNELL (1833), Baron Parke said that notice must be taken of precedents and that the court should not reject or abandon them.

Also in the Court of Chancery there was no definitive theory, the judges merely tried to do justice in each individual case. The system lacked certainty and came under heavy criticism. The court then began to pay greater respect to its previous decisions. In 1865 a Council was set...
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