An Introduction To Law


The law should preserve public order e.g. London Riots 2011.

Civil liberties and human rights should be protected e.g. racism is not allowed, but freedom of speech should be encouraged (this causes a dilemma).

Political Order

The UK has an uncodified (i.e. unwritten) constitution. However, a lot of important law controls the UK’s political system: for example, the old Labour government created the Supreme Court and reformed the House of Lords.

Other constitutional changes are enshrined in law:

Social Order

The law helps encourage a more dynamic social order – so that there is greater equality, where people are not excluded.

Some people argue the concept of equality must mean there is no differences between individuals, others argue that it is more about equality of opportunity.

Equality Act 2010:

  • This removes the old ant-discriminatory law creating a clearer act where unfair treatment is protected against e.g. in age, disability, race, and sex.

Creation of a welfare state led to a belief that government should encourage and promote equality.

Despite these aspirations for equality, we are definitely not there yet.

Economic Order

The UK has a market economy, which often means social desirable outcomes are not reached e.g. there were a lot of Health and Safety issues in factories during the 19th Century.

Regulations are therefore put in place.

The law helps to encourage competition to help limit a company monopolising (i.e. having too much control of the market).

The law makes things fair in contract so that one party does not have greater bargaining power than the other e.g. employment law regulates the relationship between the employer and the employee.

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International Law

This is more complex.

it can include the United Nation's involvement in troubled areas e.g. imposing a no fly zone in Libya.

'Crimes against humanity' are dealt with at War Crimes Tribunals by the United Nations.

Moral Order

A macro function of the law is moral order: it is the belief that the law should reflect how people 'ought' to behave.

BUT, some behaviour people may think is morally wrong (e.g. homosexuality) should NOT be unlawful.

Much law relating to the relationship between people has a large emphasis on morality e.g. marriage.

The link between law and religious order is also seen to play a large part in the UK in the modern day – they argue, the law should support religion. Others argue religion is a private activity which should not be touched by the law.

Other Macro Functions Of The Law

The resolution of social problems: if there is a social problem new law is often created to combat the issue, rather than promoting and enforcing the current law which is often more than adequate e.g. combating anti-social behaviour.

Regulating Human Relationship: e.g. marriage and civil partnership.

The Educative Ideological Function of Law: the law helps shape the UK's ideology e.g. attitudes to drink driving have changed a lot!

Micro Functions Of The Law

Defining the limit of acceptable behaviour:

  • Undesirable behaviour is not necessarily criminal e.g. drinking alcohol – but when that drinking affects other people you break the law.
  • A criminal offence in one country, might not be criminal elsewhere.
  • There is a dynamic boundary to the criminal law – a law is not forever criminal e.g. prohibiting alcohol in 1920s USA.

Defining the consequences of certain forms of behaviour: the law also establishes the consequences of actions.

Defining process for the transaction of business and other activities: e.g. when buying a house there is a set process of transaction known as the rules of conveyancing.

Creating regulatory frameworks: the law aims to regulate those that provide a public service e.g. regulating activity of lawyers, doctors, estate agents, etc.

Giving authority to the agents of the state to take actions against citizens: e.g. police power to stop and search, arrest, questions, and caution.

Preventing the abuse of power by officials: e.g. police must work within limits stated in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Giving power/authority to officials to assist the public.

Prescribing procedures for the use of law: procedural law controls how the courts and other adjudicative bodies operate.

Exam Tips

Understand why the law exists and try to determine the strongest basis for its existence.

Some other helpful legal resources: