British political institutions (4): the judiciary

I like to attend short courses at the City Literary Institute in central London and I’m now doing a six-week course on “British Political Institutions”.  The fourth session of the course was delivered by  Mark Geering and covered the judiciary, including an outline of the legal system and the role of the Supreme Court.

I have myself written a guide to the British political system and you can read the section on the judiciary here.

A few hours before the lecture and in preparation for it, I made my first visit to the Supreme Court. There is an informative exhibition and I picked up a couple of explanatory leaflets. However, the court was not actually sitting in London at the time because it was in Belfast to hear a case concerning the refusal of a Christian couple of cake makers who refused an order from a gay customer because they had a religious objection to the writing that he wanted on the cake.

A further illustration of how interesting and varied are court cases came in the lecture itself when we were told about a case which finished up in the Supreme Court when the tax authorities claimed that a Jaffa cake was not really a cake (and therefore not subject to tax) but actually a biscuit (and therefore subject to tax). Our lecturer ran through the factors considered by the court in this case which underlined that judges endeavour to make their judgements on the basis of the evidence.


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