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BritainUSA Home > All about Britain
Law and Order

Britain's approach to domestic affairs and law and order.


  • Prime Minister Gordon Brown: Even More Police on Streets
    10 Downing Street, 7/17/2008
  • Record Numbers of Foreign Criminals Removed From Britain
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  • Prime Minister Gordon Brown: Community Policing is Working
    10 Downing Street, 4/29/2008
  • Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith Launch a New Pledge for Every Community
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  • Click here for more Law and Order news ...

    The Legal System

    England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have their own legal systems, with considerable differences in law, organization and practice.

    Statutes passed by the Westminster or Scottish Parliaments are the ultimate source of law, but there is also a duty to comply with the European Community law, and courts in the UK are obliged to apply the latter in cases where the two conflict.

    In all three legal systems common law is another major source of law, developed over the centuries through the decisions of the courts. Decisions of higher courts are binding on those lower down the hierarchy.

    In England and Wales, responsibility for the administration and management of the legal system is divided between various government departments and agencies including the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office. The Ministry of Justice has overall responsibility for the court system; appointment or advising on the appointment of judges; provision of legal aid and legal services; promotion of reform and revision of the English criminal and civil law and the National Offender Management Service. The Home Office has overall responsibility for serious and organised crime; the police service; security and counter terrorism.

    In Scotland, the legal principles, rules and concepts of Scots law can be traced from diverse sources, including Roman law, canon law and the influences of other European systems. The main sources of law are the common law of Scotland and legislation enacted by the UK or Scottish Parliament or subordinate legislation authorized by the Scottish or UK Parliament. The Scottish Executive Justice Department, under the Minister for Justice, is responsible for civil and criminal law and justice, social work services, police, prison, courts administration, legal aid and liaison with the legal profession in Scotland. The Scottish Court Service deals with the work of the Supreme Court and the sheriff courts.

    Northern Ireland's legal system is similar to that of England and Wales. The UK Ministry of Justice is responsible for court administration, while the Northern Ireland Office under the Secretary of State has responsibility for policy and legislation concerning criminal law, the police and the penal system. The UK Ministry of Justice has general responsibility for legal aid, advice and assistance.

    The Police Service
    The Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Scottish Executive are responsible for the organization, administration and operation of the police service.

    In England and Wales the Home Office is responsible for government policies aimed at reducing crime. In Scotland, the Scottish Executive Justice Department has similar responsibilities, as does the Northern Ireland Office for Northern Ireland.

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