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Judicial Precedent Cases
Goes through important cases to do with Judicial Precedent in the UK legal system.
Undergraduate 1

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Precedent and the House of Lords - Using the Practice Statement

R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Khawaja [1984]

Before departing from a previous decision, the HoL should be sure that:

- continued adherence to precedent involves the risk of injustice and would obstruct the proper development of the law

- departure from the precedent is the safe and appropriate way of remedying the injustice and remedying the law

Illustrates HoL reuluctance to use the Practice Statement

C (A Minor) v Director of Public Prosecutions [1996]

HoL refused to abolish the presumption of doli incapax (presumption that children under the age of 14 were incapable of criminal wrongdoing) despite finding it to be anomalous and absurd - left it to Parliament to remedy the situation.

Exceptions to binding precedent in the Court of Appeal

Young v Bristol Aeroplane Co Ltd [1944]

1. it can choose between two previous conflicting cases

2. it conflicts with a HoL decision

3. the decision was given per incuriam

Case that considers the meaning of per incuriam

Morelle v Wakeling [1955]

Says that per incuriam is where the decision is reached without due regard for the correct law

Duke v Reliance Systems Ltd [1988]

Emphasises that if the court might have reached a different decision had it considered the correct law, this does not suffice as per incuriam

Departing from precedent when the exceptions in Young v Bristol Aeroplane Co Ltd do not apply

R v Gould [1968]

Lord Diplock stated that if it was decided that the law had been either misapplied or misunderstood in an earlier case then the CA should be able to depart from that decision even if the case could not be brought within any of the exceptions laid down in Young v Bristol Aeroplane Co Ltd

Reversing Precedent

R v Woollin [1999]

HL refused to follow the approach taken in the CA in the same case, upholding the defendant's appeal against his conviction for murder.  This reversed the decisions of the CA definition of oblique intention

Overruling Precedent

Pepper v Hart [1993]


HL decided that Hansard could be admitted in evidence before the court when trying to decide what was meant by the particular words in a statute.  This overruled the previous ruling in Davis v Johnson [1978]

Distinguishing Precedent

Balfour v Balfour [1919] and Merritt v Merritt [1970]

Decision in Merritt v Merritt distinguished Balfour v Balfour as it was decided that a couple that is separated still intend to be bound by their agreements, contrary to the judgment given in the original case.

Emergency Legislation to reverse precedent

R v Salford Magistrates' Court and Hooky [2011]

- High Court upheld ruling in Magistrates' Court that the detention clock did not stop running when a suspect was bailed, contrary to what the police force had always believed to be the case

- 2 months after the case was taken to the High Court the Police (Detention and Bail) Act 2011 was given Royal Assent which gave clear authority for the practices adopted by the police force before the High Court's deicison.

House of Lords using the Practice Statement

Milangos v George Frank (Textiles) Ltd [1976]

HoL had previously decided that all awards of damages in an English Court had to be made in sterling.  Because of the changes in international trade and the status of sterling, they did not adhere to their previous decision.

House of Lords using Practice Statement

R v Shivpuri [1987]

Concerned the law as to criminal attempts.

A decision in the HoL a year earlier (Anderton v Ryan [1985]) had received great criticism.  In current case, HoL changed its mind on whether it was possible to attempt the impossible.  Rare example of the HoL overturning a previous decision simply because it was wrong.

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