The Structure of Law (A Brief Guide)
Transport is arguably the most over regulated industry in the commercial world. The rules and regulations that govern our industry cover every aspect of our working lives, change frequently and are often confusing. For many of us, the Structure of Law is a relatively unknown world, best left to our legal representatives.
Law maybe best defined as:
What follows is but a brief guide.
Common Law is that part of the English law not embodied in legislation. It consists of rules of law based on common custom and usage and on judicial (court) decisions.
Common law developed after the Norman Conquest of 1066 as the law common to the whole of England, rather than local law. As the court system became established under Henry II in the 12th century, and judges' decisions became recorded in law reports, the doctrine of precedent developed. This means that, in deciding a particular case, the court must have regard to the principles of law laid down in earlier reported cases on the same, or similar points, although the law may be extended or varied if the facts of a particular case are sufficiently different. Therefore, common law (sometimes called 'Case Law' or 'judge-made law') keeps the law in harmony with the needs of the community where no legislation is applicable or where the legislation requires interpretation.
Statute Law is formed and made law by Parliament to meet specific requirements in governing how individuals in society are allowed to behave in certain respects. Examples are the various Road Traffic and Transport Acts considered elsewhere in this syllabus. Statute Law is open to interpretation.
Although there has been a significant increase in statute law in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the courts still have an important role to play in creating and operating law generally and in determining the operation of legislation in particular. This is despite the fact that there is no legislative or express democratic authority for the court to be law-makers. However, the Courts remain the recognised interpreters of the Law.
The European Influence
An ever growing influence on the laws in the UK is the country's membership of the European Union (EU). The EU or European Economic Community (EEC) was established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957. The purpose behind the EEC was to create a union of European States which had common economic goals. By joining together in this way, the Member States sought to achieve:
- the development of economic activities
- economic expansion
- a rise in the standard of living
As a result of our membership to the EU, common laws were created for all the member states of the EU to adhere to. There are two principal forms of EU law:
An EU regulation is a piece of legislation that must be applied by each member state in its entirety and in exactly the same way. An EU regulation does not require domestic legislation to be passed in the UK to implement it; it automatically comes into force and, furthermore, where it is at odds with domestic law then the EU Regulation must prevail. An example of an EU Regulation is 561/06 which deals with drivers' hours of work and is applied uniformly by all members of the EU.
An EU directive lays down an objective to be achieved but does not specify how individual member states should meet it. For example, professional competence for road haulage operators was tackled by EU Directive 74/561. The objective was to create a requirement for professional competence before a person could engage in the occupation of road haulage operator. Individual member states though, have developed differing methods of assessing professional competence, and each member state has created its own domestic legislation to implement the principles.