Statute Law

As a teacher of law, understanding statute law is crucial to comprehend the broader UK legal system. This introduction aims to provide a comprehensive and engaging exploration of statute law while also examining its relation to common law. Over the following sections, you will delve into the definition, importance, components, and creation process of statute laws. Moreover, the key differences between common law and statute law will be highlighted by considering their origins, interactions, and real-life examples. Subsequently, an in-depth analysis of a specific statute law will be conducted to help you better understand its implications. For further research and learning, you will be guided on how to access and effectively search a statute law database. Lastly, the article will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of relying on statute law within the UK legal system, providing a balanced overview of its benefits and limitations.

Statute Law Statute Law

Create learning materials about Statute Law with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Table of contents

    Understanding Statute Law in the UK Legal System

    Statute law, also known as legislation, plays a crucial role in the UK legal system. In this article, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the meaning, importance, components, and the process behind the creation of a statute law, and how it is applied in the UK legal context.

    Defining Statute Law: Meaning and Importance

    Statute Law refers to the written laws that are created by the legislative bodies within a given jurisdiction, such as the UK Parliament or the National Assembly for Wales. These laws cover a wide range of areas, addressing various social, economic, and political issues and concerns.

    Statute laws are important for several reasons:
    • They provide legal certainty and clarity by establishing clear and specific rules.
    • They allow the government to address evolving societal needs and problems.
    • They serve as the basis for the rights and responsibilities of individuals, companies, and other entities within the jurisdiction.
    Statutes also serve as a primary source of law, alongside common law, which consists of the body of legal principles and rules that have been established through historical court judgments.

    Components of a Statute Law: The Elements

    Understanding the key components of a statute is essential for interpreting and applying the law effectively. There are several elements that make up a statute law:
    1. Title: The formal name of the statute, which reflects the law's purpose or subject matter.
    2. Enacting clause: The opening statement that identifies the legislative body responsible for enacting the law.
    3. Sections or provisions: The individual rules or guidelines that outline the law in detail, each of which addresses a specific issue or requirement.
    4. Citations and references to other legislation: These provide context by linking the statute to existing laws and legal principles.
    5. Effective date: Specifies when the statute will come into force or when specific provisions of the law will become applicable.
    Additionally, statutes may include definitions to clarify the meaning of specific terms and phrases used within the law.

    The Process of Creating a Statute Law

    The process of creating a statute law involves several stages:
    1. Proposal and drafting: An idea for a new law or amendment is proposed by a member of the legislature, the government, or a parliamentary committee. A legal draft of the proposed law is then prepared.
    2. First reading: The draft legislation is introduced to the legislative body. It is read and assigned to a relevant parliamentary committee for scrutiny and consideration.
    3. Committee stage: The committee examines the proposed law in detail, consulting with experts and stakeholders as needed. Amendments may be proposed and incorporated at this stage.
    4. Second reading: The amended draft legislation is returned to the legislative body for further debate and discussion on the broader principles and rationale behind the proposed law.
    5. Report stage: Any further amendments are debated and voted upon before the final draft is prepared.

    Common Law vs Statute Law: Key Differences

    To fully understand the difference between common law and statute law, it's essential to explore their origins. Common law, often referred to as case law or judge-made law, has its roots in the legal traditions established in England during the medieval period. It evolved over time through principles and regulations developed by judges in their rulings on specific legal disputes, setting precedents that would influence later decisions in similar cases. Key features of common law include:
    • Based on precedents: Decisions made in past cases serve as a guide for judges in interpreting and applying the law in subsequent, similar cases.
    • Flexible and adaptable: Common law principles continuously evolve to reflect changes in society's values and expectations, ensuring that the legal system remains relevant and effective.
    • Primarily found in countries with an English legal tradition: Common law systems are predominant in countries that were once part of the British Empire, such as the United States, Canada, and Australia.
    On the other hand, statute law arises from the actions of legislative bodies tasked with creating and amending written laws to govern a jurisdiction. In the UK, statute laws are formulated by the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, and the National Assembly for Wales. These laws provide a more structured and uniform framework within which the legal system operates. Key features of statute law include:
    • Written and codified: Statute laws are documented and accessible, providing clarity and consistency in their application.
    • Created by legislatures: Statute laws reflect the decisions made by elected representatives, ensuring democratic accountability in the law-making process.
    • Can override common law: In cases where statute law contradicts common law principles, the statute law generally prevails, as it represents the more recent and direct expression of the legislature's intentions.

    How Common Law and Statute Law Interact

    While common law and statute law are distinct sources of law, they often work together within the legal system. Their interaction can take various forms, including:
    1. Interpretation: In situations where a statute's language is ambiguous or unclear, judges may rely on common law principles to interpret the statute's meaning and intent.
    2. Implementation: Common law may provide guidance on how to apply a statute in practice, particularly when a written law requires further elaboration and explanation.
    3. Gap-filling: When a legal issue arises that is not directly addressed by statute law, common law principles can be used to resolve the matter.
    4. Modification: Legislatures can choose to override or modify common law principles by enacting new statutes that expressly alter the existing legal landscape.
    Thus, common law and statute law complement each other, ensuring that the legal system remains adaptable, responsive, and effective in addressing a wide range of legal issues.

    Examples of Common Law and Statute Law in Action

    Example 1: Torts and personal injury claims often involve reliance on common law principles, such as the duty of care owed by one individual to another. In a negligence case, a judge might apply the precedent established in Donoghue v Stevenson [1932], which set the foundation for the modern law of negligence.

    Example 2: The Sale of Goods Act 1979, a statute law, governs the rights and obligations of both buyers and sellers in transactions involving the sale of goods. This specific, written law provides clear legal standards for commercial transactions, while common law principles might be used to resolve any ambiguities or interpret its provisions.

    Example 3: In criminal law, statute law, such as the Theft Act 1968, defines the elements of various criminal offences and outlines the penalties for those found guilty. However, common law principles, such as the presumption of innocence and the requirement for a unanimous jury verdict to secure a conviction, remain central to the administration of justice.

    In conclusion, understanding the differences and interactions between common law and statute law is essential for gaining a comprehensive view of the UK legal system. While each source of law serves distinct functions, they work together to provide a unified and adaptable framework for addressing various legal challenges and shaping societal values and expectations.

    Analysing an Example of a Statute Law

    To better understand how statute laws function, we will analyse a specific example and dissect its various components and provisions. By closely examining the elements of a statute and their implications, you will gain insights into the practical application of statute law within the UK legal system.

    Breakdown of a Specific Statute Law: The Equality Act 2010

    The example being used for our analysis is the Equality Act 2010, a significant piece of UK statute law governing equality, discrimination, and human rights issues across the country. The Act intends to prevent discrimination in the workplace and broader society while promoting equal opportunities for all. The key components of the Equality Act 2010 include:

    1. Title: The Equality Act 2010
    2. Enacting clause: Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows...
    3. Sections or provisions: The Act consists of multiple parts and numerous provisions covering various aspects of equality and discrimination laws, such as:
    • Part 2: Equality: Key Concepts (e.g., six types of discrimination - direct, indirect, harassment, victimisation, etc.)
    • Part 3: Services and Public Functions (e.g., prohibition of discrimination in the provision of goods and services)
    • Part 4: Premises (e.g., discrimination related to property)
    • Part 5: Work (e.g., protections against discrimination in the workplace)
    • Part 6: Education (e.g., education-related discrimination)
    • Part 7: Associations (e.g., prohibitions on discrimination within organisations and private clubs)
    • Part 8: Prohibited Conduct: Ancillary (e.g., provisions on positive action and publications)
    • Part 9: Enforcement (e.g., rights and remedies available to victims of discrimination)
    • Effective date: The Equality Act 2010 received royal assent on 8 April 2010 and took effect on 1 October 2010.
    This detailed breakdown of the Equality Act 2010 serves as an excellent example of how statute laws are structured and organized to provide clear and comprehensive guidelines on a specific subject matter.

    Understanding the Implications of the Statute Law: The Equality Act 2010

    The implications of the Equality Act 2010 are significant, both for individuals and organizations operating within the UK. The Act establishes a legal framework for promoting equality and protecting individuals from various forms of discrimination. Some notable implications of the Act include:
    1. Protected characteristics: The Act identifies nine protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation) and provides protection against discrimination based on any of these characteristics.
    2. Impact on employers: The Act sets out specific provisions regarding equal treatment in the workplace, requiring employers to ensure that employees, job applicants, contract workers, and trainees are not subjected to discrimination or unequal treatment based on protected characteristics. Employers must also make "reasonable adjustments" for employees with disabilities.
    3. Goods, services, and facilities: The Act prohibits discrimination in the provision of goods, services, and facilities to individuals based on their protected characteristics. It covers a broad range of providers, including government services, private businesses, banks, and public transportation services.
    4. Education providers: Schools, colleges, and universities have a responsibility to prevent and address discrimination and to promote equal opportunities for all students, regardless of their protected characteristics.
    5. Enforcement and legal remedies: The Act sets out specific enforcement powers and legal remedies through which individuals who have experienced discrimination can seek redress, such as lodging a complaint with the Equality and Human Rights Commission or filing a discrimination claim in an employment tribunal or a county court.
    In conclusion, the Equality Act 2010 highlights the complexity and breadth of statute law in addressing critical societal issues, such as equality and discrimination prevention. Understanding the elements and implications of a statute law like the Equality Act 2010 is crucial for individuals, businesses, and other entities operating within the UK legal system and seeking to comply with the applicable legislative requirements.

    Using a Statute Law Database for Research and Learning

    Statute law databases are valuable resources when researching and learning about laws, legislation, and relevant legal principles. These databases offer comprehensive access to current and historical legislation, as well as tools and features that allow users to search, analyse, and compare statutes in an efficient and user-friendly manner. By harnessing the power of statute law databases, students, academics, legal professionals, and genuinely curious individuals can deepen their understanding of the legal framework and track critical developments in a particular jurisdiction's laws.

    How to Access a Statute Law Database

    When looking to access a statute law database, there are several notable databases and platforms that you can use to browse and research legislation. Some key options include:
    • Government websites: In the UK, the official government database of statute law is It offers free access to a comprehensive collection of UK legislation, including Acts of Parliament, Statutory Instruments, and other legal documentation.
    • Subscription-based services: Certain commercial online services, such as LexisNexis and Westlaw UK, provide access to comprehensive and frequently updated databases of legislation, case law, and legal commentary. These services often require a subscription, but many educational institutions and law firms have access that you may be able to utilise.
    • Academic and research databases: Some universities and research centres maintain online databases containing legislation, case law, and secondary materials. These resources may be publicly accessible or restricted to individuals affiliated with the institution.
    To access the database of your choice, simply visit the relevant website and follow any registration or subscription procedures if applicable. Once you have access, you can begin exploring the wealth of legislative information available.

    Tips on Effectively Searching a Statute Law Database

    Effectively searching a statute law database can vastly improve the efficiency and accuracy of your research. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your searches:
    1. Know the database's terminology: Familiarise yourself with the key terms and abbreviations commonly used in the database, as well as any unique features or classification systems employed. This understanding will help refine your searches and locate the most relevant results more quickly.
    2. Start with a broad search and then narrow it down: It's often helpful to start by conducting a general search using basic keywords or phrases related to your topic, then progressively narrow your search by applying filters and using more specific search terms in line with the database's functionalities.
    3. Utilise the database’s advanced search features: Many databases offer advanced search options that enable users to search for legislation based on a range of criteria, such as date, jurisdiction, subject matter, or specific provisions. These features can help to significantly improve the precision of your search results.
    4. Keep track of relevant legislation: As you identify relevant statutes, bookmark or save them for easy reference later. This practice will streamline your research process and help avoid unnecessary duplication.
    5. Always verify the current status of legislation: Legislation can be amended, repealed, or replaced over time. Consequently, when consulting database entries, pay close attention to the version and date of the legislation to ensure that you are working with the most up-to-date and accurate information.
    6. Use secondary resources: Many databases offer links to secondary materials, such as law journal articles, government documents, and explanatory notes. These resources can provide valuable context and insights, helping you better understand your legislative research.
    By following these tips, you can take full advantage of statute law databases and make your research process more efficient, accurate, and rewarding. Be prepared to invest time in learning how to navigate your chosen database effectively, but remember that this investment will pay dividends in the long run as you become more adept at locating relevant legal information with ease.

    Advantages and Disadvantages of Statute Law in the UK Legal System

    Statute law provides various benefits within the UK legal system that can be instrumental in promoting legal certainty, stability, and fair outcomes. Key advantages of relying on statute law include:
    • Clarity and consistency: Statute laws are written and codified in a manner that offers a clear and consistent set of rules that are accessible to the public. This clarity helps individuals and organisations understand their rights, responsibilities, and the consequences of non-compliance.
    • Democratic legitimacy: Statute laws are created by elected representatives in the legislature, ensuring that the law-making process is subject to democratic oversight and scrutiny. This democratic accountability helps ensure that laws align with the values and expectations of society.
    • Ability to address modern concerns: Because they are drafted and enacted by the legislature, statute laws can be tailored to address contemporary issues and challenges, such as technological advancements, environmental concerns, and changing societal values.
    • Flexibility and adaptability: The legislative process allows for the amendment or repeal of existing laws or the introduction of new legislation to keep pace with evolving circumstances. This adaptability enables the legal system to remain relevant and responsive to changing needs and contexts.
    • Overriding common law principles: In cases where statute law conflicts with common law, the statute generally prevails. This provision ensures that the legislature's intent and the most recent expressions of the law take precedence over potentially outdated or conflicting common law principles.

    Drawbacks and Limitations of Statute Law

    Despite its advantages, statute law also has its drawbacks and limitations within the UK legal system. Some of the main potential drawbacks include:
    • Ambiguity and interpretation issues: Statute laws may sometimes contain ambiguous or unclear language, requiring judges and legal professionals to interpret the legislation in light of its purpose, context, and underlying principles. This process can create uncertainty and inconsistency in the application of the law.
    • Political influence: As statute laws are created by elected representatives, the law-making process can be subject to political considerations and influence. This situation might lead to laws reflecting the priorities and interests of the ruling political party or pressure groups, potentially at the expense of broader societal concerns.
    • Time-consuming and complex process: The legislative process for creating and amending statute law can be lengthy and complex, involving multiple stages of drafting, review, debate, and amendment. This complexity can result in delays in addressing urgent issues and may create barriers to effective law reform.
    • Risk of overregulation: The proliferation of statute laws may lead to an increasingly complex and detailed legal framework that can be challenging to navigate and comprehend. This complexity may burden individuals and organisations with additional regulatory compliance requirements and hinder efficient legal processes.
    • Impact on legal tradition: The increasing reliance on statute law in the UK legal system might dilute or displace the rich common law tradition that has developed over centuries, potentially eroding the unique characteristics and strengths of the UK's legal heritage.
    Overall, while statute law plays a crucial role in the UK legal system, it also comes with potential drawbacks and limitations. Understanding these factors can inform a more balanced view of the role and value of statute law in contemporary legal contexts, highlighting the need for continued vigilance and responsiveness in reforming and refining the UK's legislative framework.

    Statute Law - Key takeaways

    • Statute law refers to written laws created by legislative bodies such as the UK Parliament or the National Assembly for Wales, addressing various social, economic, and political issues in a given jurisdiction.

    • Key components of a statute law include the title, enacting clause, sections/provisions, citations and references to other legislation, and the effective date.

    • Two main sources of law in the UK legal system are common law, based on historical court judgments, and statute law, created by legislatures.

    • Statute law databases like and subscription-based services such as LexisNexis and Westlaw UK provide access to current and historical legislation for research and learning purposes.

    • Advantages of relying on statute law include clarity and consistency, democratic legitimacy, addressing modern concerns, flexibility and adaptability, and overriding common law principles, while disadvantages include ambiguity and interpretation issues, political influence, a time-consuming and complex process, risk of overregulation, and impact on legal tradition.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Statute Law
    What is the statute law?
    Statute law refers to the written laws passed by a country's legislative body, such as Parliament in the United Kingdom. These laws are formally enacted through bills that have been debated, amended, and voted upon by legislators, and then receive Royal Assent from the monarch. Statute laws are authoritative, establish legal rights and obligations, and form a significant part of a country's legal system. They are distinct from common law, which is based on judicial decisions and precedent.
    What is meant by statute law?
    Statute law refers to the written laws enacted by a legislative body, such as the UK Parliament. These laws are formally created, passed and documented, providing a clear and authoritative set of rules governing a specific subject matter. Statute laws have a fixed and defined scope, and they take precedence over common law – the body of law developed through judges' decisions in individual cases. In the UK, statute laws are the primary source of law, alongside common law and European Union law.
    What is one example of a statute?
    One example of a statute in the UK is the Data Protection Act 2018, which governs the processing and handling of personal information and aims to protect the privacy rights of individuals.
    Why is statute law important?
    Statute law is important because it provides a clear, written framework for governing a society. It promotes consistency, fairness, and predictability, as it ensures that everyone has access to the same set of rules. Additionally, statute law empowers the government to address contemporary issues, enabling them to pass legislation to cater to the changing needs of society. Furthermore, it forms a significant part of a country's legal system, alongside common law, providing a comprehensive body of law for citizens and courts to rely upon.
    What is the difference between common law and statute law in the UK?
    The primary difference between common law and statute law in the UK lies in their origin and development. Common law is judge-made law, derived from case decisions and historical customs, while statute law is created by Parliament through legislation. Common law sets legal precedents based on judicial decisions, which can be used as guidance in future cases, whereas statute law is applied uniformly to all relevant cases. Additionally, statute law can override or amend common law provisions, while common law cannot change statute law.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What is Statute Law?

    What are the key components of a Statute Law?

    What are the stages of creating a Statute Law?

    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Statute Law Teachers

    • 18 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App