How are laws made?
In the UK, most of our laws are created through the introduction of pieces of writing called ‘bills’ into Parliament.
A bill might contain a suggestion for making a new law. Or it might suggest changing a law that already exists. It can be introduced to Parliament by the government, by an individual Member of Parliament (MP) or by a Member of the House of Lords.
Each bill must be approved by both the House of Commons and by the House of Lords in order to be made into a law.
The Queen is the last person to approve a bill before it becomes law. This is called ‘Royal Assent’.
Now, watch how laws are made.
Judge-made law or Common law
You might be surprised to know that some of our laws have been made by judges. These laws are known as ‘judge-made law’ or ‘common law’.
It is not normally a judge’s role to make the law. But many years ago, a judge’s work involved travelling around the country, listening to people’s arguments and problems, and deciding what should happen.
The decisions that judges made were written down.
Gradually a system called ‘precedent’ was created where judges looked at the decisions of other judges, and made sure their own decisions matched up to these.
An example of judge-made law is the law of murder which has never been made into an Act of Parliament.
Today judges decisions are still written down. Some are kept in books called law reports and many are available online by the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII)