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A Series Begins...

As many of you have seen from LinkedIn, I have started a mini series of posts discussing what are, in my opinion, some of the most fundamental UK constitutional and public law cases of all time.

My intention with this mini series is to provide a flavour of, and some insight into, the constitutional arrangements of the UK. It is aimed at both lay persons and lawyers alike. The selections are in no particular order and as you can appreciate, limiting it to just a select few was very difficult!

Without further ado, my first case: The Case of Proclamations [1610] EWHC KB J22.

For historical context, this case was heard at a time where real change was underway; the monarch's absolute power to essentially make whichever law it so chose was beginning to be challenged by the English judiciary. This was causing concern in Parliament itself. Essentially, there was a school of thought that the Tudor monarchs had the power to regulate the country without the consent of Parliament. This was done via “royal proclamations”.

Heard by the then Chief Justice, Sir Edward Coke, it was ruled that the King had no prerogative but that which the law of the land allows him.

This means that the monarchy could no longer do as it wished in terms of carrying out legislative functions. The court in this case indicated that when an alleged exercise of prerogative power comes before the courts, the courts could determine:

1 - Whether the proclaimed prerogative existed in law and how far it extended;

2 - Whether it had been limited by statute, and if so, in what way; and

3 - Whether there was any requirement that the Crown pay compensation after the exercise of the prerogative.

The Case of Proclamations can be seen as the catalyst of the shift towards today’s constitutional monarchy whereby the monarch respects the law-making authority of Parliament.

Whilst this is an old case, it is nonetheless very important. The Case of Proclamations is one which has continued to shape society today and was central in the recent Supreme Court decisions of:

R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2017] UKSC 5; and

R (Miller) v The Prime Minister [2019] UKSC 41.


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