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Describe the Characteristics of Just Laws and the Nature of Justice

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Define law- 

The law is a set of rules imposed on everybody. Laws are recognised and enforced by the police and court. If the law is breached there can be consequences. The law is universal so it applies to everybody.

Distinguish between customs, rules, laws, values and ethics-

  • Customs are established patterns of behaviour that vary depending on the culture, religion and history of a group of people, for a society or for a country. Customary law has influenced the Australian legal system in the following areas: Indigenous customary law, English customary law and international customary law.
  • Rules only apply to certain people at a certain time. Rules are often written or used via symbols and penalties can be used to ensure people comply with rules. Rules can also be changed quickly.
  • Values are a reflection of the things that society considers important, values are also often reflected in the law. Values and ethics are not constant.
  • Ethics are things that society considers right and wrong. Eg- respect for another’s property and refraining from violence against another individual.

Describe the characteristics of just laws and the nature of justice- 

Just laws are equal. This means everyone is treated the same. However, this does not mean that the outcome has to be equal when applying the law. A just law is utilitarian, meaning that an action achieves the greatest “good” for the greatest number of people. Just laws aim to redress inequalities and should not create injustice. Just laws must not be retrospective, meaning that laws must be made for the future. Laws that change the legal status in the past are unjust. The law must be known; they need to be known to be enforced. Justice is a combination of equality, fairness and access. Justice is symbolised by lady justice. Blindfold = impartiality, scales = fairness and sword = to carry out justice. Equality means that laws do not discriminate, they are applied equally and the enforcement of law has to be equal also. Fairness means that just laws don’t have a particularly harsh effect on any individual, the right to appeal a decision and also that fairness and equality aren’t always met. And lastly access means that individuals must be able to access the law in order for justice to be achieved, the right to have access to legal information to understand the law and also to make documents easier to understand by using plain English.  

Define and investigate procedural fairness and the rule of law-

Procedural fairness is the idea that there must be fairness in the processes used to resolve disputes. The main principle is the concept of fair treatment before the law it includes:

  • The right for a person to participate in legal proceedings in which they have an interest.
  • The right to have a matter heard before a court that is free from bias and use only evidence prevented to them to make a decision.
  • The right for a defendant to have a hearing, during which they have the chance to present evidence.
  • The right to test evidence presented in a case (cross examination.)
  • The right of the accused to not have previous convictions brought up during their trial.

Define anarchy and tyranny-

Anarchy can emerge when society is left without a legal system. This is common after war or natural disasters. Violence and widespread looting are two indications that society is on the verge of anarchy. Tyranny in some aspects is the opposite of anarchy. It occurs when there is a breach of power of the law makers and enforcers. “Police states” is a term used to describe the fact that law enforcers act arbitrary and with out of fear of consequence. Justice is impossible, there is no distinction between law makers, law enforcers and the courts.  

Outline the origin of common law- 

Common law is the body of customary law, based upon judicial decisions. Common law is law made by judges rather than parliaments.

Examine the hierarchy and jurisdiction of state and federal courts- 

Federal court hierarchy-

High court is the highest court in Australia. It hears appeals from all other Australian courts and its main function is to interpret the constitution and determine whether legislation is constitutionally valid.

Federal court is approximately equivalent of a state supreme court. Its original jurisdiction is to hear criminal and civil cases concerned with Commonwealth law (terrorism, immigration, customs etc.)

Family court can only hear matters concerned with family law. Family court has jurisdiction over marital disputes, divorces and also care of children.

state court hierarchy- 

High court hears appeals from state and territory courts, as well as the constitutionality of any state or territory legislation.

Court of appeal has appellate jurisdiction only: they are formed to hear appeals from the supreme or district court.

Supreme court is the highest court in each state and territory. They hear the most serious of offences. Charges involving multiple offences may also be referred to the supreme court.  

District court is an intermediate court, hearing criminal trials for serious offences. It has jurisdiction to hear all but the most serious of criminal charges such as murder etc.

Outline the role and structure of parliament and the legislative process-

The Australian parliament consists of the Queen who is represented by the governor general and two houses, the senate and the house of representatives. The house of representatives is the lower house and its primary role is to make new laws and to amend existing ones. The house of representative’s form government, decide matters on national interest, represent the interests of the people in their electorates, propose, debate and vote on bills and amendments, examine issues in committees and also to scrutinize executive government. The senate is the upper house which can introduce bills. The senate decides matters of national interest, represents the interests of people in their states or territories, propose, debate and vote on bills and amendments, examine issues in committees and scrutinize executive government.



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