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Cases in the English Legal System
Publication date: 2016-11-10

The Method of Considering Cases in the English Legal System

In all legal systems there are always two views of a case: (a) the Case as it exists in the Real World and (b) the case as it is presented in Court by the Parties to the case, usually by their lawyers.

In simple cases, and, if the parties present to the court true and relevant facts, there is no difference between the two views.

But in complex cases, where the legal issues of the Case are not understood by the Parties, or where the facts presented to the Court are irrelevant or false, there can be great difference between the Case as it exists in the Real World and as it is presented before the Court by the Parties.

The Judge does not make decisions on the basis of the facts (or legal arguments as applied to these facts) as they exist in the Real World. The Judge sees the case only as it is presented to him by the Parties to the Case. And his decision is limited only to the questions raised by the parties.

The responsibility for the facts and legal arguments being correct and relevant with respect to the Real World lies with the Parties to the Case and their legal representatives. The Judge's function is limited to making decisions based on the presentations of the parties.

Any knowledge of the facts of the case which the Judge, as a person, might have from external sources, like the media, or personal observations of life, and any personal views the Judge might have based on such external to the case sources, the Judge must ignore — his Judgement must be based only on the case as presented by the parties.

This is often seen by the Public as “judges being out of touch with the Real World”, but the duty of the Judge is to consider the case as presented by the parties, not as it exists in the Real World, no matter how “in touch with the Real World” the Judge, as a private person, might be.

And from this it follows that the word “right”, as applicable to a Judicial Decision, and how it would be used by an Appeal Court, is not “right” with respect to the Realities of the Real World, but with respect to the evidence and the legal arguments presented to the Judge at the Hearing.

Because of this it is possible for a decision to be right with respect to the case as heard by the Judge, and being wrong with respect to the Real World.

This can lead to public dissatisfaction with legal decisions, and hopes that a decision will be overturned by an Appeal Court, but such expectations could be unfounded, because the Public sees the Case in the light of the information available to them, but the Judge sees the Case as presented to him by the Parties.

Judges, besides being judges, are Human Beings, and Human Beings can make mistakes, through misunderstandings, omissions, false assumptions, logical errors, personal prejudices or emotional logic. This is recognised by the Legal System, and this is why it has Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction to review and rectify decisions of the courts of lower instance.

When a Case is appealed against, the Appeal Court makes no attempt to consider the Case of the Real World, it will only consider the Case as it was heard in the Court of lower instance. No evidence and no legal arguments, which had not been presented at the original hearing will be allowed.

If a Judicial Decision is right with respect to the Case as presented in the Court, but would have been wrong, if some new evidence or new legal argument had been considered, then the Case should be not be “appealed” against, but presented for a “retrial” — a fresh trial based on new evidence or legal arguments.

Courts are reluctant to undertake such retrials, as presentation of evidence and raising of points of law is the responsibility of the parties — they had their chance, but failed to do so. Allowing parties to keep finding new evidence, and raising new points, would lead to endless applications for retrials. This is why such retrials are allowed only in exceptional cases.

But, even, seemingly “hopeless” appeals occasionally succeed. This can happen due to flawed presentations by the other side, or can be results of judicial errors. And, as litigation lawyers can never be sure of what will happen at the hearing, they take on even “hopeless” cases, if their clients are prepared to take a chance, after being warned about low prospects of success.

A party wishing to appeal, should take note of these features of the English Legal System. They are not the “fault” of the judges. This is how the Legal System works.

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