Legal Studies Chapter One Summary

Chapter One: Basic Legal Concepts.

A law is a special type of rule that has been made by a person or institution that has the authority to make laws. This is referred to as sovereign power. The most important feature of law is that it is universal. This means that the law applies constantly and consistently. The law is always in effect and it applies to everyone (rule of law-no one is above the law).

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Laws are enforced by the police and the courts, who are acting on behalf of society. Customs can be defined as the ways of behaving that have been established through longstanding traditions.Customs are not written down, instead, they tend to be passed down from generation to generation. Rules are established to ensure the smooth operation of society, they only apply to certain people at certain times. Penalties such as fines are often used to ensure that people comply with rules.

The values societies hold are a reflection of the things that are considered important. These values are often reflected in the law. Ethics are defined as those things that a society considers to be right and wrong. When we act ethically, we act in the right way.In order to be valid, a law must be just. A just law has several characteristics, including: * It is equal.

A just law is one that treats every person the same. * It is based on widely held values. Laws should be based on the values and ethics held by most of society. * It is utilitarian. Utilitarianism is the philosophy of ensuring an action achieves the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

* It aims to redress inequalities. This means that law should not create inequality or injustice. * It must minimise delay. It must not be retrospective. The law must be made for the future. * The law must be known.

Laws must be known before they are enforced. The nature of justice: justice is a combination of equality, fairness and access. Justice requires laws that do not discriminate and that are applied equally to all people. The enforcement of the law must also be equal. Fairness is another feature of justice. Key factors associated with fairness include ensuring the law does not have a particularly harsh effect on an individual.

Individuals must have the ability to access the law in order for justice to be achieved. Procedural fairness is often referred to as ‘natural justice’. The doctrine of natural justice includes: * The right of a person to participate in legal proceedings in which they have an interes. * The right of a person accused of wrongdoing (the defendant) to know the accusation made against them. * The right of the defendant to have a hearing, during which they are able to present evidence.

* The right to have a matter heard before a court that is free from bias.It is for this reason that judges and juries are required to put aside their personal views about a matter and use only the evidence presented to them to make a decision. * The right to test the evidence presented in a case. * The right of the accused to not have previous criminal convictions or accusations to be brought up during the trial. Key factors of a legal system that complies with the rule of law include: * An independant judiciary.

* Controls placed on enforcement agencies, such as the police, to ensure that they do not abuse power. The accused should not be forced to incriminate themselves. * The legal defence for the accused must be free to perate without interference from the prosecution. * The accused must be informed of the allegations made against them. * Criminal laws must never be retrospective * Governments are bound by a constitution * Human rights, particularly those relating to freedom of association, speech and religion are protected. When a society is left without an effective legal system, anarchy can emerge.

Such a situation is common after times of war or natural disaster when governments, courts and law enforcement agencies cannot operate effectively. In some respects, tyranny is the extreme opposite to anarchy. It occurs when there is no check on the power of lawmakers and enforcers. Constitutions, if they exist, are disregarded and consequently there is no rule of law. Countries where tyranny exists are often referred to as ‘police states’. There is no distinction between lawmakers, law enforcers and the courts; they are all essentially the same organisation and therefore justice is impossible.