Interpreting the Law

Parliament makes the laws, but it is the judiciary that interprets them. In the UK the judiciary is appointed, although in some countries it is elected.

The role of the judge is to help establish the facts in a trial (in a jury trial this is as an assistant to the jury), advise the jury on matters of law and then to deal with sentencing.

The judgment from any trial will often be challenged and appealed. Eventually such appeals end up, if they are significant, at the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court can overturn secondary legislation, ruling it unlawful. It cannot overturn primary legislation, but sometimes judgments give a strong steer to parliament that law needs to be reassessed.

The most common situation is where two equally valid pieces of primary legislation seem to contradict one another. Euthanasia is an example, with the conflict between the right to autonomy and the crime of taking a life. So are many of the issues with privacy laws we have, responding to new media.