What is law?
Law can affect many aspects of our lives yet most people living in England and Wales have little understanding of the legal system that operates in these two countries. For many their main awareness comes from newspaper articles with headlines such as Murderer jailed for life, Burglar caught in the act, Young offender goes free. This type of headline appears so frequently that it is not surprising that, when law is mentioned, many people only think of the criminal law and the courts that deal with this type of case. In reality, the law covers an enormous range of situations and the legal system in England and Wales has a variety of courts and methods for dealing with different types of cases.
International & National Law
International law is concerned with disputes between nations; much of this law comes from treaties which have been agreed by the governments of the countries. National Law is the law which applies within a country: Each country will have its own national law and there are often wide differences between the laws of individual countries. This can be shown by the fact that Scotland has its own law and legal system which are quite separate from the law and legal system which operates in England and Wales. For examples, while serious criminal cases are tired my jury in both systems, the Scottish jury has 15 members and the decision can be made by a simple majority of 8-7. In contrast, the jury in England and Wales has 12 members, at least 10 of whom must agree on the decision.
Public and Private law
Within national law there is usually a clear distinction between public and private law. Public law involves the state of government in some way, while private law is concerned with disputes between private individuals or businesses. Both public and private law can be sub-divided into different categories.
Company law is very important in the business world: It regulates how a company should be formed, sets out formal rules for running companies, and deals with the rights and duties of shareholders and directors. Employment law covers all aspects of employment from the original formation of a contract of employment to situations of redundancy or unfair dismissal. As well as these areas of private law, there are also laws relating to land, to copyright and patents, to marine law and many other topics, so it can be seen that civil law covers a wide variety of situations.
Like any business, staff are needed to keep the business alive. But what happens when this gets ugly and termination of contracts come into the picture? This is an area in law where alternative dispute resolution has long been used in the shape of ACAS (Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service). When any claim is filed at an employment tribunal, a copy of that claim is sent to ACAS who will then contact the two parties involved and offer to attempt to resolve the dispute without the need for the matter to go to a tribunal. ACAS has specially trained conciliation officers who have a great deal of experience of employment disputes.
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