Rules or Laws?
What is a Rule?
A rule can be something that you are allowed to do in a particular situation.
Or a rule can be something you are not allowed to do in a particular situation!
Everywhere we go – at home, at school, in our communities – there a rules.
For example, if you play a sport, you will know there are lots of rules to follow.
When is something a law and not just a rule?
Laws are also rules that apply in lots of different situations.
There are two main types – Civil Law and Criminal Law. You can find out more about these here.
The key difference between a rule and a law, is where it comes from – or who made it.
You can find out more about how laws are made here.
Why does it matter?
When you have a problem that the civil law applies to, then a judge in court can decide what should happen.
If someone is found guilty of breaking the criminal law, then a judge in court will decide what punishment they will get.
A rule that is not a law cannot be enforced by a judge in court and they cannot punish you.
Some examples - rule or law?
“I saw someone stealing from a shop” – Law – the person was breaking the criminal law against theft.
“I was talking when I should have been listening.” – Rule – no law against this!
“I played football and was pushed over” – Rule – a foul. If it is a serious foul and the player is injured, the Law might also be relevant here.
“I opened a new toy, it was already broken” – Law could apply here – setting out your consumer rights.
To explore ideas about life with and without rules you can:
Jenny Tyler, Phillip Hawthorn and Stephen Cartwright, There’s a dragon at my school. A good introduction to rules at school as a dragon visits school and breaks every rule. Audience 3-5 years.
William Golding, Lord of the Flies. This book explores what could happen if we live without rules through telling the story of a group of schoolboys who get stranded on a desert island without adults. Audience 13 years upwards.