Judicial Precedent in the English Legal System Essay

3886 Words Mar 29th, 2012 16 Pages
The doctrine of judicial precedent is based on the principle of stare decisis which means ‘to stand by what has been decided’. It is a common law principle whereby judges are bound to follow previous decisions in cases where the material facts are sufficiently similar and the earlier decision was made in a court above the current one in the court hierarchy. This doctrine of precedent is extremely strong in English law as it ensures fairness and consistency and it highlights the importance of case law in our legal system. Black's Law Dictionary defines "precedent" as a "rule of law established for the first time by a court for a particular type of case and thereafter referred to in deciding similar cases."

For this system to operate
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This statement was obiter dicta because it did not directly relate to the facts of this particular case.

This persuasive precedent was followed in the case of R v Gotts (1992) where a defendant charged with attempted murder tried to use the defence of duress in the Court of Appeal. The ratio decidendi of R v Gotts (1992) then formed its own binding precedent.

Other persuasive precedents include decisions of the Scottish courts and those made in the courts of other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada. This may be because a case with these particular facts has not been heard in the English Courts before but may have been heard in another country. This was the case in R v R (1991) where the Court of Appeal and House of Lords followed previous decisions made by the Scottish courts that a man could be found guilty of raping his wife.

Another persuasive precedent are dissenting judgements which come from the appeal courts. In the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal the cases are heard by more than one judge and sometimes a decision is reached by only a majority of these judges. The judges in the minority will also give a judgement for why they came to their decisions and this is called a dissenting judgement.

A dissenting judgement was followed by Lord Denning in the case of Candler…