Jae Yun Chung, 200900240, Dr. John Carrier

4. The Sixth Sir David Williams Lecture- The Rule of Law

        The difficulty of formulating an accurate definition for the Rule of Law has long been recognised by the authors of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. The task of definition has therefore been left to the courts, leaving room for the meaning of the concept to somewhat evolve over time. Lord Bingham accepts that such a task of definition is a challenge, but nevertheless attempts it by examining its implications, which are presented in a series of eight sub-rules.

        The first of his proposed sub-rules states that ‘the laws must be accessible and so far as possible intelligible, clear and predictable.’ In other words, people who are bound by the law must be able to find out what it is without undue difficulty. Legislative hyperactivity poses a threat to the proposed rule –‘in 2004, some 3500 pages of primary legislation; in 2003, nearly 9000 pages of statutory instrument’- as the sheer volume of legislation in itself raises problems of accessibility. Law judgments create similar problems due to their thorough and consequently lengthy nature. However, the superiority of common law judgments over single Privy Council judgments holds true, as a single judgment supported by very concise concurrences can cause continuing problems of interpretation.

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        Lord Bingham’s second sub-rule affirms that legal issues should be resolved by application of the law and not the exercise of discretion. Despite Dicey’s hostility to the exercise of discretions, this sub-rule is not strictly followed. For instance, it has been a practice in the immigration field to invite the Secretary of State to exercise his discretion to grant leave to enter or remain to applicants who do not meet the requirements laid down in the immigration rules for entry. Discretion should be narrowly defined and its exercise wholly capable of a rational justification, as broadly-textured discretions would allow greater ...

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This is a good descriptive account of Lord Bingham's speech, which selects the most salient points for each of the eight sub-rules. A different approach would have been required if the question demanded a critical assessment of the rules. To improve this essay, the student should find recent cases which illustrate application of the rules. A good example would be the extradition of Abu Qatada. 4 Stars.