Essay Guide, A Level Law Step-by-step Guide

Hi, there. This is a step-by-step guide on how to write an A Level Law essay.

I am a law teacher with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in law from the University of London and 10 years of teaching experience in the Cambridge A Level Law syllabus. What I will do in this step-by-step video is to share with you the detailed contents of a good essay answer that addresses the examination questions most effectively so as to score you the highest mark for your examination of the paper.

Detailed Guide to essay writing

My videos will be broken down into two parts, the first is where I will give you a step-by-step guide to the contents of the answer, and the second video I will walk you through the full essay whilst at the same time sharing with you good essay writing techniques. Before we begin, please note that this video guide will be most effective for you if you already have some basic knowledge of the relevant chapters that I will be discussing. As this is the second part of the video guide, I will be going through the whole written essay with you and then explain the workings as I go along. In case you haven’t seen the first part of this video guide, I would like to encourage you to do so first so as to prepare you for the actual essay itself. I have inserted the link to the first part of the video guide in the description below. If you find this video guide useful, please like, share and subscribe to my channel and don’t forget to click on the bell button to get notifications of new videos as I will be making video guides every week. For a quick recap of what we have done in the first part of the video, let us review the question and structure of the contents again The question reads: Explain statutory interpretation and critically consider the approaches used by English judges in the practice of applying statute law whilst adjudicating. From the question we can infer that this question covers the chapter Statutory Interpretation. And the focus of the question concerns the definition and explanation of statutory interpretation whilst critically considering the approaches used by judges in their endeavour to apply statute law whilst adjudicating.

Essay Structure

The essay should include an introduction, relevant points, and finally a good conclusion which addresses the question. Before I begin going through the essay I would like you to note that my answer is not the perfect essay answer, but it only serves as a guide for you so that you get an idea on how to write your essay and score the highest mark possible for your effort. Incidentally, I may have also left our certain minor details from my content video as whatever points that have been discussed earlier only serves as a guide for us to reach our end-product, the essay. Introduction Laws come from two distinct sources. written laws and unwritten laws. Written English laws come in the form of statute laws, while unwritten laws are known as common laws. Statutes are made by Parliament as Acts of Parliament. These statutes are used by judges who seek to understand particular statute laws whilst applying them in a court trial. Due to some problems with statute laws, English judges have to practice statutory interpretation. To critically consider how judges interpret statutes, we will discuss the two main approaches to interpretation in detail. A brief introduction is an ideal one. It is advisable that candidates spend only the first 4-6 lines of the answer sheet to write the introduction so that we do not accidently reveal too much in the introduction itself It is after all, an introduction and we do not want to overload it with too much information and then leave the actual contents of the essay with nothing else to write Therefore, a straightforward introduction, briefly stating the starting point of the development of the essay is important to a good essay Point One Part One Some statute laws are inherently defective despite rigorous efforts to ensure its perfection, and as such, ambiguity and inapplicability exists within an Act of Parliament. Thus, English judges practice two approaches to statutory interpretation known as the literal approach and the purposive approach.

Literal approach

Generally, the literal approach focuses on the actual wordings of the statute, while the purposive approach concerns with the purpose behind the enactment of a statute. The first part of point one acts as a bridge between the introduction and the focus of the question Here we do not simply regurgitate the introduction but to try and develop the objective of the essay so that by the time we go into the focus of the question, the contents will make more sense as we can justify what we are writing about after considering the first part of point one Point One Part Two Judges who utilise the literal approach are guided by the three common law rules to statutory interpretation.

The first is the Literal Rule where R v Judge of the City of London (1892) has established that judges should apply statute laws according to its plain and ordinary meaning. Such rigidity has seen cases such as Whiteley v Chapple (1868) allowing imposters to get away with the literal meaning of the law. This is why English judges have developed the second Golden Rule of statutory interpretation which seeks to modify the words in a statute so that the meaning of the word is not understood and applied in a way that will lead to a repugnant situation as seen in Whiteley’s case. Re Sigsworth (1935) is a good example to show how judges have decided to interpret a statute so that a murderer cannot benefit from his own crimes. From here onwards we will go into the crux of the content, addressing the most important aspect of the question, albeit the first half of the question As you might have noticed, I did not go through the cases with too much illustrations as this is a very general question Because it is a general question we do not have enough time to write too much, especially the facts of all the case laws that we are utilizing in our essay It will be good if we can only briefly illustrate the facts of the case in our own words wherever it is relevant to the question Long illustration of case laws should only be reserved for questions which only focuses on something specific from a chapter in the syllabus Point One Part Three

The third rule is the Mischief Rule, where it allows the judge to consider the mischief that was in the old common law that the current statute has remedied. This would mean that judges are taking the Golden Rule another step further and closer to the purposive approach as judges no longer seek to modify the meaning of words but to simply instill purpose in words within a statute. A good case to illustrate this is Smith v Hughes (1870), where it was decided that the law, though not explicit, aimed to rid public places of common prostitutes whether they be on the street or indoors. I decided to separate the third rule of statutory interpretation as I feel that the previous paragraph has become too long It is important to note that for a good essay, one content paragraph should not be too long as we might mesh up too much details which may lead to digression On the other hand, a paragraph which is too short might also risk the candidate leaving out a lot of important and relevant point thereby causing the content of the essay as a whole to become very brief and lack critical analysis For exam purposes we only have exactly 30 minutes to write one full essay, therefore we should limit our main content paragraphs to an average of between 50 to 100 words. Point Two Part One The purposive approach generally contradicts the literal approach as it is more concerned with the purpose of a particular statute than what the statute actually says about what the law is. Lord Denning in Magor v St Mellons District Council v Newport Corporation (1951) described the practice as judges seeking to fill the gaps in the law so that we do not make a nonsense of it. However, this approach has been criticised by some parties saying that it is but ‘a naked usurpation of the legislative function under the thin disguise of interpretation’. This is because if there is a gap in the law, the remedy lies in an amending Act, and that judges shouldn’t try to overrule Parliament by questioning its intention. Despite these two arguments, judges have enlisted intrinsic and extrinsic aids to finding the intention of Parliament.

This is where we get to the second half of the essay where we start to address the purposive approach in earnest Because the question asks us to consider the approaches available, we should then give equal attention to both approaches to statutory interpretation where the detail of the content must be more or less equal in measure Point Two Part Two Intrinsic aids can be found within the statute itself, whilst extrinsic aids are matters completely outside the Act. These external sources include law reform reports, international conventions, or even explanatory notes. The most controversial external source relied upon is the use of Hansard where all the debates in Parliament are recorded. Hansard has been rejected as such materials are considered an unreliable guide to the meaning of what was enacted because it may not be able to explain the Act clearly. However, in 1993 this rule was relaxed in the case of Pepper v Hart (1993) and the Hansard can now be used in a limited way where the legislation appears to be ambiguous and obscure, and that there are some clear statements made in Hansard which can be relied upon. It is important to note that before we actually give our own opinion in the essay, it is good to first state the facts and the kind of problems that any concepts have with each other so as to establish our own knowledge of the topic in question Therefore, as much as these two paragraphs might seem quite critical on the point of the purposive approach, we haven’t actually given our own thoughts about it Point Three Part One The literal approach and purposive approach has its good and bad points, but overall it is a matter of justice to the case. The rigid application of the literal approach might provide some sense of certainty in the law, but it also leads to absurdity and its solution might in turn lead to uncertainty in application, especially wider application of the Golden Rule. Purposive approach, on the other hand, might make clear certain ambiguity with a statute but it comes at the price of undermining Parliament’s sovereignty. This is especially so when judges rely heavily on external sources to dictate an Act of Parliament. This is the part where we can go all out to comment and express our thoughts about the topic in question, giving mind to the focus of the question so that our views do not stray from what the question is asking us to do Because this is a general question, and because of the time factor, questions like this do not give us the luxury to express ourselves too much but to get straight to the point in a concise way Point Three Part Two In addition, S. 3 Human Rights Act 1998 has further compromised Parliament’s supremacy by requiring judges, as far as it is possible to do so, to give effect to legislation in a way which is compatible with the rights in the European Convention of Human Rights. This would mean that judges are to place even more importance in external sources to interpret laws rather than just relying on the statute itself. As I did mention in the part one of this video guide, this point isn’t necessary for the answer as it doesn’t actually address the focus of the question but is merely ancillary to it. It is, however, relevant to the statutory interpretation and the problems judges face when practicing it. Therefore, if there is enough time, this point should only be briefly mentioned, so that candidates can afford themselves some extra marks in the essay as a whole. Conclusion The basics of the practice of statutory interpretation can be seen in the use of either the literal approach or purposive approach. Both represent the only logical means to solve and do justice to individual cases. Either way, so long as justice is seen to be done, it matters little which approach is preferable. Candidates often find it difficult to conclude their essay, but the truth is that there shouldn’t be much attention given to the conclusion other than a brief summary of what has been discussed throughout the essay The conclusion acts merely as an affirmation to what has been discussed and no extra points that are not mentioned throughout the essay should be brought up at all That is the end of the video guide. I hope it has helped you in your legal studies. Do check out part one of this video where I’ll go through with you the contents of the answer to the question. I have linked the video in the description below. If you have any questions, comments or any suggestions on what other topics you would like me to cover, please leave a comment on this video.

And again, if you find this video guide useful, please like, share and subscribe to my channel as I will be uploading new video guides on different topics every week. In addition to that, if you would like me to send you a copy of the whole essay in Microsoft Word form, please subscribe to my channel and then drop me an email requesting the document. Thank you.

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