This essay will critically evaluate the extent to which the UK judiciary has demonstrated a willingness to uphold the requirements of the rule of law whilst referring to relevant case law where necessary, in order to access how the judiciary has applied, interpreted and upheld the requirements of this rule.
The Rule of Law unlike the doctrines of Parliamentary Supremacy and Separation of Powers, is more of an ideal rather than a doctrine, which is not only fundamental to the UK constitution but also to modern western democracies as suggested by Stewart (2004). It is an ancient ideal capable of different interpretations and meanings that has been widely examined by scholars, political scientists and lawyers and dates back to over two thousand five hundred years with its origins in ancient Greece. Aristotle (384-322BC) stated that, “it is better for the law to rule than one of the citizens… so even the guardians of the law are obeying the laws.” Aristotle’s view has in one way or another been supported by numerous academics including Howard (2013), as he believes that, legal limits should be in place to ensure that the government and public bodies do not operate above the law and furthermore that citizens be treated in a fair manner by public bodies as required by the rule of law. It is therefore adamant to use case law, to illustrate that the judiciary in the UK constitution has on numerous occasions upheld the requirements of the rule of law and continue to do so.
Numerous definitions of the rule of law have been provided by various academics such as Stewart, public and political figures, governments and even notable organizations such as the United Nations, hence, many definitions exists, however the most notable and perhaps most influential and recognised definition, in English law is the one provided by A. V. Dicey. In ‘an introduction to the study of the Law of the Constitution (1885)’, Dicey defined the rule of law as having three meanings, the first being, the absolute supremacy or predominance of regular law, stating that “no man is punishable or can lawfully be made to suffer in body or goods except for a distinct breach of law established in ordinary manner before the ordinary courts of the land”, secondly, that “no man is above the law, but here everyman, whatever be his rank or condition, is subject to the same law administered in the same courts” and lastly that “ the constitution is the result of the ordinary law, the general principles of the constitution are with us the result of judicial decisions determining the rights of private persons in particular cases brought before the courts.”. Essentially, Dicey’s definition provides that, no one is above the law and therefore every individual should be treated equally. Furthermore, nobody can be punished unless they are proven in court to have broken the law and the courts should provide a remedy for any breach of an individual’s legal rights. Although merely an ideal, the rule of law is significant in the UK constitution as made apparent by its inclusion in section 1 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, whilst, no definition was offered, its presences demonstrate that parliament acknowledges its importance within the constitution.