Contributed By Signature Litigation LLP
There are three distinct legal jurisdictions within the UK. These are England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Both England and Wales and Northern Ireland are common law jurisdictions, while Scotland has a mixed legal system which contains elements of civil law as well as common law. The UK Parliament (located in Westminster, London) has jurisdiction to legislate in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in respect of certain reserved and excepted matters (for example, defence), but otherwise each of these nations has effectively been granted autonomy in respect of legislating for all other matters. The differences between the three legal jurisdictions are outside the scope of this chapter, and the following material focuses on the legal regime in England and Wales and the English courts, as this is the regime that is most commonly featured in commercial contracts.
At its most basic, the legal regime in England and Wales has three elements:
If statutory legislation has been enacted in a particular area and provides a complete answer to the point at issue, the English courts are bound to follow the statute. However, to the extent that this is not the case, the primary residual source of law is the common law, which arises as a precedent based on the reasoning of earlier judicial decisions. The English courts are primarily adversarial in nature and the parties put forward their position both by way of written submissions and oral argument.