Munro, Review of Loveland, 'Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, and Human Rights' (6th ed) and Le Sueur, Sunkin and Murkens, 'Public Law: Text, Cases and Materials' (2nd ed) (2013) 19(3) Web JCLI

Ian Loveland, Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, and Human Rights (6th ed)

(OUP, Oxford 2012), 753 pages, paperback, £35.99, ISBN 978-0-19-960640-5

Andrew Le Sueur, Maurice Sunkin and Jo Murkens, Public Law: Text, Cases and Materials (2nd ed)

(OUP, Oxford 2013), 868 pages, paperback, £38.99, ISBN 978-0-19-964418-6

Reviewed by Colin Munro, Emeritus Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Edinburgh

© 2013 Colin Munro
First published in the Web Journal of Current Legal Issues
Citation: Munro,C., Review of, Loveland, 'Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, and Human Rights' (6th ed) and Le Sueur, Sunkin and Murkens, 'Public Law: Text, Cases and Materials' (2nd ed) (2013) 19(3) Web JCLI

Constitutional law is not always a popular subject for first year students, and the challenge for authors is to make their books interesting and relevant as well as accurate and up to date.  There is no outstanding market leader amongst the main textbooks, but students who are willing to read widely are quite well served by dividing their attention amongst textbooks that each have particular strengths, some introductory books and monographs, and by books that contain text but also include or link to (or both) primary sources and secondary materials of relevance.

The two books under review fall into the latter category, along with a few others such as those by Allen and Thompson (a third from the same publisher) or Turpin and Tomkins (from a different publisher).  Nowadays, of course, the text and materials book is often not merely a stand-alone product.  Publishers such as Oxford University Press seek to add value for readers and users by accompanying books with an “online resource centre”.  Authors are encouraged or even obliged to furnish these in a variety of ways, to augment or to stimulate, to expand or to connect, perhaps to obviate or delay the need for another hard copy edition.  Thus Ian Loveland’s accompaniment features an online casebook, “mind maps” or revision sheets for students, and tutorial questions on which lectures might draw.  Andrew Le Sueur, Maurice Sunkin and Jo Murkens provide web links, updates, and a test bank on which to draw.

In the evolution of Ian Loveland’s book from the first edition (in 1996) to the current sixth, it is interesting to see how the author has gradually expanded the text while devolving, as we might say, some materials to the online adjunct.  That said, there are still to be found quite extensive case extracts in some chapters.

The latest edition of the book has 24 chapters, divided into five parts: Theoretical Principles (4 chapters); The Institutions and Operation of National Government (5); The Geographical Separation of Powers (4); Administrative Law (4); and Human Rights (6), along with a concluding chapter.  The width of coverage corresponds to a two-semester course, perhaps; indeed, it is wider than many of these in practice.

An opening chapter that is predominantly on the United States constitution does not make too many concessions to new students, who in the following chapter are thrown into the deep end of parliamentary sovereignty.  The author evidently believes in stretching students, and the book, subtitled “A Critical Introduction”, will perhaps be of most benefit to students who are questioning and reflective.  Viewed in that light, there is much to admire in Loveland’s confident and often stimulating approach to the subject.  The chapters on central areas are a little uneven, but a kind of ‘storytelling’, historical approach that is used to frame some of the topics generally works well.  The chapters on administrative law are particularly strong.  Whether the human rights topics are best arranged as they are may perhaps be debatable.

The author (in the preface) admits to being “more concerned with analysing principle than with describing detail,” and here and there some lack of attention to detail in updating can be observed, for example on parliamentary committees or on rules about the conduct of elections.  However, the book benefits from the author’s commitment to a cross-disciplinary approach and the sharp, single-author perspective.

By contrast, the other book under review is a team effort in which, if there were lead authors for individual chapters, they are not identified.  The book by Andrew Le Sueur, Maurice Sunkin and Jo Murkens is reasonably described as a second edition, although greybeards may discern its descent from the first two authors’ earlier book, “Public Law” (Longman, 1997), with which it shares many aspirations.

These authors prefer the ‘text, cases, and materials’ approach, they say, so as better to reflect the analysis and arguments of writers on and participants in the constitution, many aspects of which are contested; in order to include significant and informative case studies; and to provide students with access to key sources and materials.

In the result these purposes are very successfully accomplished in an attractively presented volume.  There is much to commend in the way that the chapters intersperse summaries, introductions, extracts, photographs, tables, diagrams and questions, to list (perhaps not exhaustively) the authors’ techniques.  The publishers have facilitated and perhaps encouraged such diversity with an impressive variety of typography, colours, boxes and shading, to indicate (again perhaps not exhaustively) their contribution to the appearance of the book.

The book has 19 chapters, and its scope is indicated by their division into four parts, entitled Constitutional Fundamentals (6 chapters), Executive Functions (3), Legislative Functions (4), and Judicial and Dispute Resolution Functions (6).  There is rather more attention to European Union law and institutions than might be expected in a constitutional law book (although Loveland is comparable in this respect), and there is also considerable emphasis on “multilevel governing” within the United Kingdom.  Yet other areas such as electoral matters are not covered, and there are no treatments of any substantive aspects of civil liberties such as freedom of speech, police powers or public order, although there is a chapter on the international and domestic protection of rights, and another on “using human rights in the United Kingdom courts,” with a couple of case studies.  The compass is therefore narrower than Loveland’s, and so in some ways is the approach, as the authors perhaps rather surprisingly admit in their preface to choosing to focus on the legal aspects (their emphasis) of the constitution.  However, those areas of constitutional doctrine and institutions that are covered are very proficiently discussed in chapters of consistently high quality that are notable for their thoroughness.

In summary, both of these books have appreciable merits and teachers of constitutional law will find much to recommend in each of them.