Edited by Jan M. Smits
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (‘The United Kingdom’) is composed of England, Scotland and Wales (together, ‘Great Britain’) and Northern Ireland. While England and Wales share a legal system and set of civil procedural rules, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own systems. The Northern Irish legal system mirrors, to a broad extent, the English system. The same cannot be said of Scottish law. England and Wales constitute a common law jurisdiction. In the absence of a civil law code, English laws are set out in primary and secondary legislation and in landmark legal judgments. Depending upon the level of the court in which a judgment is given, a legal judgment may constitute a precedent. The ratio decidendi of a court’s judgment might, accordingly, be binding upon other courts dealing with similar matters. This is considered further below. In practice, English is the language that is predominantly used in all the courts of England and Wales. Nevertheless, pursuant to the Welsh Language Act 1993, Welsh may be used in proceedings before courts situated in Wales. In most other cases, the use of the Welsh language in English courts will be subject to the judge’s permission.
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