Essay on Ratio Decidendi and Obiter Dictum

1024 Words Apr 19th, 2013 5 Pages
RATIO DECIDENDI AND OBITER DICTUM
The decision or judgement of a judge may fall into two parts: the ratio decidendi (reason for the decision) and obiter dictum (something said by the way).
RATIO DECIDENDI - The ratio decidendi of a case is the principle of law on which a decision is based. When a judge delivers judgement in a case he outlines the facts which he finds have been proved on the evidence. Then he applies the law to those facts and arrives at a decision, for which he gives the reason (ratio decidendi).
OBITER DICTUM - The judge may go on to speculate about what his decision would or might have been if the facts of the case had been different. This is an obiter dictum.
The binding part of a judicial decision is the ratio
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* The Court of Appeal must refuse to follow a decision of its own which cannot stand with a decision of the House of Lords even though its decision has not been expressly overruled by the House of Lords.
* The Court of Appeal need not follow a decision of its own if satisfied that it was given per incuriam (literally, by carelessness or mistake).
Decisions of the Court of Appeal itself are binding on the High Court and the county courts.

COURT OF APPEAL (CRIMINAL DIVISION)
In principle there is no difference in the application of stare decisis in the civil and criminal divisions of the Court of Appeal. In practice, however, in addition to the Young exceptions, because a person's liberty may be at stake, precedent is not followed as rigidly in the criminal division.
In R v Taylor [1950] 2 KB 368 the Court of Appeal held that in 'questions involving the liberty of the subject' if a full court considered that 'the law has either been misapplied or misunderstood' then it must reconsider the earlier decision.
THE HIGH COURT
The High Court is bound by the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords but is not bound by other High Court decisions. However, they are of strong persuasive authority in the High Court and are usually followed.
Decisions of individual High Court judges are binding on the county courts.
A Divisional Court is bound by the House of Lords and the Court of Appeal and normally follows a previous decision of another…

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