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  • Revision:Av diceys comment on the rule of law

TSR Wiki > Study Help > Subjects and Revision > Revision Notes > Law > A.V Dicey's comment on the rule of law


In deciphering A.V Dicey's comment on the rule of law, it is imperative to establish a sound understanding of the concept of the rule of law. It is undoubtedly one that is capable of differing interpretations and thus the actual meaning is often evasive.

Though the idea of the rule of law was not introduced by Dicey, he may be credited for popularising it. In his book[1] he defended Britain's system of an unwritten constitution[2] and argued that this was a positive gain. Dicey summarised the rule of law under three heads.


Primarily...No man could be punished or lawfully interfered with by the authorities except for breaches of law. In other words, all government actions must be authorised by law.


Secondarily...No man is above the law and everyone, regardless of rank, is subject to the ordinary laws of the land.


Finally...There is no need for a bill of rights because the general principle of the constitution are the result of judicial decisions determining the rights of the private person.


On first glance, the comment that is rule of law is an unqualified good is clearly self-evident. The benefits are innumerous. It proposes that government should have restraints, not possess discretionary powers, there should be legal controls over the government's activities and no one including government officials should be above the law. These principles if successfully attained within a society will result in national stability and security of citizens.

The good of the rule of law may also be seen from the consequences of failing to follow the principles of the rule of law. All of which is evident in either current events or in history. Beginning with his first principle, there has been contrast with every system of government by persons in authority or of wide, arbitrary or discretionary powers.

A case which expounds this is Liversidge v Anderson the House of Lords held that the courts could not review the Home Secretary's belief tat detention without a warrant was justified. The earlier case Entick v Carrigton illustrates Dicey's ideas, here the courts affirmed that a warrant issued by a home secretary for entry into private property and seizure of allegedly seditious material was against the law and amounted to trespass.


The Human Rights Act 1998 reflects the rule of law in most of the articles.


References and Notes=

  1. Introduction to the study of law of the constitution (1885)
  2. i.e. it is not contained in one document and much of it has no formal legal status.


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