Fides et Ratio: Precedent in the Early Jurisprudence of the United Kingdom Supreme Court

James Lee


This article examines the state of UK Supreme Court jurisprudence after its first five years of hearing cases, through the lens of its approach to the doctrine of precedent. The paper considers the four cases in which the Court has referred to the Practice Statement (Judicial Precedent) (which now forms part of the Court’s Practice Directions). Building upon the work of Professor Alan Paterson, it is argued that those cases reveal an entrenched conservatism when it comes to departing from previous decisions. The paper goes on to analyse decisions from the past year, which saw the first cases (outside of human rights or European cases, to which different considerations apply) in which the Court was unanimous that it should depart from a previous decision of the House of Lords. The authorities reveal significant differences among the Justices about transparency when reasoning with precedent and the appropriate role of the Court more generally.

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