“Where law ends, there tyranny begins.” (William Pitt, the Elder)
These days it seems as if the government is constantly making new laws, but it’s not always a ‘bad’ thing – the Equality Act 2010 incorporates anti-discrimination laws and makes everyone equal, no matter what their nationality, beliefs, gender, disability or sexual orientation. The Human Rights Act 1996 gave everyone the right to make a claim in the English courts against any public organisation they think is infringing their liberty.
Law can often seem a dusty old subject with no relevance to anyone but lawyers, politicians and the police. This isn’t true! In fact, it’s a subject which is useful to everyone, and can be fascinating to learn. It’s not always obvious that studying law means studying life and life stories. English law is largely based on precedent, i.e. decisions are made in respect of a specific situation which has arisen between two parties in the past, and which then governs the way similar situations are judged in the future.
That retailers are liable for the current ‘horsemeat scandal’ is based on a principle which goes back to 1932, when a certain Mrs Donoghue bought a bottle of ginger beer which turned out to contain a snail. The courts established that the seller, Mr Stevenson, had a duty of care to his customer which, if breached, might foreseeably lead to her harm, and so Mrs Donoghue succeeded in her claim against him.
I have the privilege of teaching law at City College, both to aspiring lawyers and to those learners in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance on Open Doors programmes, who wish to learn a new subject to enhance their employability. Enquiries for Legal and Open Doors courses 01273 667773.
Open Evenings 9 May and 23 May from 5-9pm
Catherine Meek, City College Lecturer