The Rule of Law in England and Wales

What is the rule of law?

The Rule of Law a Doctrine whereby every person no matter who they are must obey the law, there is no leniency for a person because of their peerage, sex, religion or financial standing.  England and Wales do not have a written constitution therefore the Rule of Law, which along with Parliamentary Sovereignty, was regarded by Legal analyst A.C Dicey, as the pillars of the UK Constitution, the Rule of Law was said to be adopted as the “unwritten Constitution of Great Britain”.

The Rule of law is made up of many essential components, including:

Legal Certainty

Legal certainty requires that all laws enacted and passed in the United Kingdom be applied in a precise and predictable manner.  This means that when legislation is passed to convey a particular aim that this aim is carried out within the law, legal certainty should always show that if a person is charged with an offence then the prosecution must show that that person has breached the law in a distinct way in order for that person to be fined or sent to prison. 

Equality

The Rule of Law states that every case which is alike should be treated the same, i.e. Precedent in the Law.  Each citizen has the right to be protected from unjust discrimination from the state, the state cannot say that one person is below or above another in law and therefore every person is entitled to protection and liberty.  The law also states that a person cannot be treated unfairly by the state due to their ethnic, sexual or religious views.  A.V Dicey believed that equality before the law was extremely important insofar as he believed that officials should be dealt with by the same court as the ordinary citizen as this showed the general masses that the government was not being unjustly lenient on an Official. 

Fairness

The Rule of Law also says that all laws enacted and passed must be published for each citizen to see, each citizen must be able to access this information.  It also states that laws which are written down must also be legible to ensure clarity and thus prevent unfair discrimination and enforcement.  It also states that law must be able to be understood and that the terminology must not be to unidentifiable that a person cannot understand it nor should legislation be too ambiguous that the reason for its enactment be lost.

Retrospective

The Rule of Law states that all laws must not be retrospective, that a person cannot be tried for an offence if the act was not an offence when he committed it.    

Due process

Due process and the Rule of Law are important together as due process would only see a person imprisoned or punished if there was substantial and sufficient evidence of their guilt.  Due Process is more concerned with every person getting a fair trial rather than proving guilt.  If a person’s liberty is taken away from them and  the courts cannot show their guilt by evidence then that person may be entitled to be awarded damages for the loss of their personal liberty.

One case that purported to establish the Rule of Law in the United Kingdom was the case of Entick v. Carrington(1765) 19 St Tr 1030, this case showed that the police must show lawful authority (a power conferred on them by law) to enter a person’s private property and cease personal property, this case concerned Police officers going into Entick’s property and ceasing personal papers without having a warrant therefore causing him to be arrested and lose his personal liberty.  One of the fundamental rules in the Rule of Law is that a person cannot lose their personal liberty unless it can be proved that they broke the law.