At the end of this module, you will be able to: * distinguish between ratio decidendi and obiter dicta. * apply well-established rules to identify the ratio decidendi in a decision.
This module is intended as a useful exercise in revision. If you are certain that you understand how to discover the ratio in an opinion, you should skim lightly over this material.
What is the ratio decidendi?
As you probably recall from your studies, the term ratio decidendi is a Latin phrase which means the "the reason for deciding". What exactly does this mean? In simple terms, a ratio is a ruling on a point of law. However, exactly what point of law has been decided depends on the facts of the case. | The importance of material facts As Goodhart A L (1891–1978) pointed out long ago in the 1930s, the ratio is in pratical terms inseparable from the material facts. Goodhart observed that it "is by his choice of material facts that the judge creates law". By this Goodhart meant that the court's decision as to which facts are material or non-material is highly subjective, yet it is this inital decision which determines a higher or lower level of generality for the ratio. Goodhart's reformulation of the concept of the ratio was the subject of heated debate, particularly in the 1950s. Compare Goodhart's concept of the ratio with Lord Halsbury's statement that: "Every judgement must be read applicable to the particular facts proved, since the generality of the expressions which may be found there are not intended to be the expositions of the whole law but govern and are qualified by the particular facts of the case in which such expressions are to be found." Lord Halsbury (1901)What, if any, is the difference between Goodhart's material facts and Halsbury's particular facts? |
What are obiter dicta?
Obiter dicta is a Latin phrase meaning "things said by the way". Obita dicta are not binding (unlike the ratio), but