English contract law
English contract law is a body of law regulating contracts in England and Wales. With its roots in the lex mercatoria and the activism of the judiciary during the industrial revolution, it shares a heritage with countries across the Commonwealth, to a lesser extent the United States, it is experiencing gradual change because of the UK's membership of the European Union and international organisations like Unidroit. Any agreement, enforceable in court is a contract; because a contract is a voluntary obligation, in contrast to paying compensation for a tort and restitution to reverse unjust enrichment, English law places a high value on ensuring people have consented to the deals that bind them in court. A contract forms when one person makes an offer, another person accepts it by communicating their assent or performing the offer's terms. If the terms are certain, the parties can be presumed from their behaviour to have intended that the terms are binding the agreement is enforceable; some contracts for large transactions such as a sale of land require the formalities of signatures and witnesses and English law goes further than other European countries by requiring all parties bring something of value, known as "consideration", to a bargain as a precondition to enforce it.
Contracts can be made or through an agent acting on behalf of a principal, if the agent acts within what a reasonable person would think they have the authority to do. In principle, English law grants people broad freedom to agree the content of a deal. Terms in an agreement are incorporated through express promises, by reference to other terms or through a course of dealing between two parties; those terms are interpreted by the courts to seek out the true intention of the parties, from the perspective of an objective observer, in the context of their bargaining environment. Where there is a gap, courts imply terms to fill the spaces, but through the 20th century both the judiciary and legislature have intervened more and more to strike out surprising and unfair terms in favour of consumers, employees or tenants with weaker bargaining power. Contract law works best when an agreement is performed, recourse to the courts is never needed because each party knows their rights and duties. However, where an unforeseen event renders an agreement hard, or impossible to perform, the courts will construe the parties to want to have released themselves from their obligations.
It may be that one party breaches a contract's terms. If a contract is not performed the innocent party is entitled to cease their own performance and sue for damages to put them in the position as if the contract were performed, they are under a duty to mitigate their own losses and cannot claim for harm, a remote consequence of the contractual breach, but remedies in English law are footed on the principle that full compensation for all losses, pecuniary or not, should be made good. In exceptional circumstances, the law goes further to require a wrongdoer to make restitution for their gains from breaching a contract, may demand specific performance of the agreement rather than monetary compensation, it is possible that a contract becomes voidable, depending on the specific type of contract, one party failed to make adequate disclosure or they made misrepresentations during negotiations. Unconscionable agreements can be escaped where a person was under duress or undue influence or their vulnerability was being exploited when they ostensibly agreed to a deal.
Children, mentally incapacitated people and companies, whose representatives are acting wholly outside their authority, are protected against having agreements enforced against them where they lacked the real capacity to make a decision to enter an agreement. Some transactions are considered illegal, are not enforced by courts because of a statute or on grounds of public policy. In theory, English law attempts to adhere to a principle that people should only be bound when they have given their informed and true consent to a contract; the modern law of contract is a creature of the industrial revolution and the social legislation of the 20th century. However, the foundations of all European contract law are traceable to obligations in Ancient Athenian and Roman law, while the formal development of English law began after the Norman Conquest of 1066. William the Conqueror created a common law across England, but throughout the middle ages the court system was minimal. Access to the courts, in what are now considered contractual disputes, was consciously restricted to a privileged few through onerous requirements of pleading and court fees.
In the local and manorial courts, according to English law's first treatise by Ranulf de Glanville in 1188, if people disputed the payment of a debt they, witnesses, would attend court and swear oaths. They risked perjury if they lost the case, so this was strong encouragement to resolve disputes elsewhere; the royal courts, fixed to meet in London by the Magna Carta 1215, accepted claims for "trespass on the case". A jury would be called, no wager of law was needed, but some breach of the King's peace had to be alleged; the courts allowed claims where there had been no real trouble, no tort with "force of arms", but it was still necessary to put this in the pleading. For instance, in 1317 one Simon de Rattlesdene alleged he was sold a tun of wine, contaminated with salt water and, quite fictitiously, this was said to be done "with force and arms, namely with swords and bows and arrows"; the Court of Chancery and t
Courts of Scotland
The courts of Scotland are responsible for administration of justice in Scotland, under statutory, common law and equitable provisions within Scots law. The courts are presided over by the judiciary of Scotland, who are the various judicial office holders responsible for issuing judgments, ensuring fair trials, deciding on sentencing; the Court of Session is the supreme civil court of Scotland, subject to appeals to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, the High Court of Justiciary is the supreme criminal court, only subject to the authority of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on devolution issues and human rights compatibility issues. The judiciary of Scotland, except the Lord Lyon King of Arms, are united under the leadership and authority of the Lord President and Lord Justice General, the president of the Court of Session and High Court of Justiciary; the Court of Session has the authority, under the Courts Reform Act 2014, to regulate civil procedure through passing subordinate legislation knows as Acts of Sederunt, the High Court of Justiciary has the authority to regulate criminal procedure through passing Acts of Adjournal.
Both Acts of Sederunt and Acts of Adjournal have the capacity to amend primary legislation where it deals with civil or criminal procedure respectively. The majority of criminal and civil justice in Scotland is handled by the local sheriff courts, which are arranged into six sheriffdoms led by a sheriff principal; the sheriff courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all civil cases with a monetary value up to £100,000, are able to try criminal cases both on complaint for summary offences, with a jury for indictable offences. Treason and rape are in the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court of Justiciary, whilst the High Court and sheriff courts have concurrent jurisdiction over armed robbery, drug trafficking, sexual offences involving children all these cases are heard by the High Court. Administration for the courts is provided by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, a non-ministerial department of the Scottish Government; the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service is operationally independent of the Scottish Ministers, is governed by a corporate board chaired by the Lord President, with a majority of judicial members.
There are various specialist courts and tribunals with specialist jurisdictions, which are subject to the ultimate jurisdiction of either the Court of Session or High Court of Justiciary, including. Children under the age of 16 who face allegations of criminal conduct are dealt with through the Children's Hearings, which are quasi-judicial in nature. Disputes involving agricultural tenancies and crofting are dealt with by the Scottish Land Court, disputes about private rights in titles for land ownership and land valuation are dealt with by the Lands Tribunal for Scotland. Heraldry is regulated in Scotland both by the civil and criminal law, with prosecutions taken before the Court of the Lord Lyon. Defunct and historical courts include the Admiralty Court, Court of Exchequer, district courts, the High Court of Constabulary; the United Kingdom does not have a single judicial system — England and Wales have one system, Scotland another, Northern Ireland a third. The Military Courts of the United Kingdom have jurisdiction over all members of the armed forces of the United Kingdom and civilians subject to service discipline in relation to offences against military law.
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom operates across all three separate jurisdictions, hearing some civil - but not criminal - appeals in Scottish cases, determining certain devolution and human rights issues. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom was created on 1 October 2009 by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005; the Supreme Court will hear civil appeals from the Court of Session, it hears appeals from all the civil and criminal courts of England and Wales and of Northern Ireland. The Supreme Court has no authority to hear appeals on criminal matters from the High Court of Justiciary; until the creation of the Supreme Court, ultimate appeal lay to the House of Lords, a chamber of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Supreme Court took over the judicial functions of the House of Lords, assumed the jurisdiction over devolution and human rights issues vested in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Cases involving "devolution issues" arising under the Scotland Act 1998, as amended by the Scotland Act 2016, which includes disputes regarding the validity of Acts of the Scottish Parliament or executive functions of the Scottish Government, are heard by the Supreme Court.
These cases may reach the Court as follows: The Court of Session may remit a case to the Supreme Court. The High Court of Justiciary can refer a point of law to the Supreme Court; the Law Officers of the Crown may refer a bill from the Scottish Parliament to the Supreme Court. Any court, if a Law Officer so desires, may refer a case to the Supreme Court. Law Officers may refer any issue not related to a case to the Supreme Court; the parties to a case may appeal a case from the Inner House of the Court of Session. The Court of Session is the supreme civil court, it is both a court of first instance and a court of appeal, sits in Parliament House in Edinburgh. The court of first instance is known as the court of appeal the Inner House; the Sheriff Appeal Court is a national court with a jurisdiction over civil appeals from the Sheriff Courts, replaces appeals made to the Sheriffs Principal. The Sheri
Republic of Ireland
Ireland known as the Republic of Ireland, is a country in north-western Europe occupying 26 of 32 counties of the island of Ireland. The capital and largest city is Dublin, located on the eastern part of the island, whose metropolitan area is home to around a third of the country's over 4.8 million inhabitants. The sovereign state shares its only land border with a part of the United Kingdom, it is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the Celtic Sea to the south, St George's Channel to the south-east, the Irish Sea to the east. It is a parliamentary republic; the legislature, the Oireachtas, consists of a lower house, Dáil Éireann, an upper house, Seanad Éireann, an elected President who serves as the ceremonial head of state, but with some important powers and duties. The head of government is the Taoiseach, elected by the Dáil and appointed by the President; the state was created as the Irish Free State in 1922 as a result of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. It had the status of Dominion until 1937 when a new constitution was adopted, in which the state was named "Ireland" and became a republic, with an elected non-executive president as head of state.
It was declared a republic in 1949, following the Republic of Ireland Act 1948. Ireland became a member of the United Nations in December 1955, it joined the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the European Union, in 1973. The state had no formal relations with Northern Ireland for most of the twentieth century, but during the 1980s and 1990s the British and Irish governments worked with the Northern Ireland parties towards a resolution to "the Troubles". Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the Irish government and Northern Ireland Executive have co-operated on a number of policy areas under the North-South Ministerial Council created by the Agreement. Ireland ranks among the top twenty-five wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita, as the tenth most prosperous country in the world according to The Legatum Prosperity Index 2015. After joining the EEC, Ireland enacted a series of liberal economic policies that resulted in rapid economic growth.
The country achieved considerable prosperity between the years of 1995 and 2007, which became known as the Celtic Tiger period. This was halted by an unprecedented financial crisis that began in 2008, in conjunction with the concurrent global economic crash. However, as the Irish economy was the fastest growing in the EU in 2015, Ireland is again ascending league tables comparing wealth and prosperity internationally. For example, in 2015, Ireland was ranked as the joint sixth most developed country in the world by the United Nations Human Development Index, it performs well in several national performance metrics, including freedom of the press, economic freedom and civil liberties. Ireland is a member of the European Union and is a founding member of the Council of Europe and the OECD; the Irish government has followed a policy of military neutrality through non-alignment since prior to World War II and the country is not a member of NATO, although it is a member of Partnership for Peace. The 1922 state, comprising 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland, was "styled and known as the Irish Free State".
The Constitution of Ireland, adopted in 1937, provides that "the name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland". Section 2 of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948 states, "It is hereby declared that the description of the State shall be the Republic of Ireland." The 1948 Act does not name the state as "Republic of Ireland", because to have done so would have put it in conflict with the Constitution. The government of the United Kingdom used the name "Eire" and, from 1949, "Republic of Ireland", for the state; as well as "Ireland", "Éire" or "the Republic of Ireland", the state is referred to as "the Republic", "Southern Ireland" or "the South". In an Irish republican context it is referred to as "the Free State" or "the 26 Counties". From the Act of Union on 1 January 1801, until 6 December 1922, the island of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. During the Great Famine, from 1845 to 1849, the island's population of over 8 million fell by 30%. One million Irish died of starvation and/or disease and another 1.5 million emigrated to the United States.
This set the pattern of emigration for the century to come, resulting in constant population decline up to the 1960s. From 1874, under Charles Stewart Parnell from 1880, the Irish Parliamentary Party gained prominence; this was firstly through widespread agrarian agitation via the Irish Land League, that won land reforms for tenants in the form of the Irish Land Acts, secondly through its attempts to achieve Home Rule, via two unsuccessful bills which would have granted Ireland limited national autonomy. These led to "grass-roots" control of national affairs, under the Local Government Act 1898, in the hands of landlord-dominated grand juries of the Protestant Ascendancy. Home Rule seemed certain when the Parliament Act 1911 abolished the veto of the House of Lords, John Redmond secured the Third Home Rule Act in 1914. However, the Unionist movement had been growing since 1886 among Irish Protestants after the introduction of the first home rule bill, fearing discrimination and loss of economic and social privileges if Irish Catholics achieved real political power
English trust law
English trust law concerns the creation and protection of asset funds, which are held by one party for another's benefit. Trusts were a creation of the English law of property and obligations, but share a history with countries across the Commonwealth and the United States. Trusts developed when claimants in property disputes were dissatisfied with the common law courts and petitioned the King for a just and equitable result. On the King's behalf, the Lord Chancellor developed a parallel justice system in the Court of Chancery referred as equity. Trusts were used where people left money in a will, created family settlements, created charities, or some types of business venture. After the Judicature Act 1873, England's courts of equity and common law were merged, equitable principles took precedence. Today, trusts play an important role in financial investments in unit trusts and pension trusts, where trustees and fund managers invest assets for people who wish to save for retirement. Although people are free to write trusts in any way they like, an increasing number of statutes are designed to protect beneficiaries, or regulate the trust relationship, including the Trustee Act 1925, Trustee Investments Act 1961, Recognition of Trusts Act 1987, Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, Trustee Act 2000, Pensions Act 1995, Pensions Act 2004 and the Charities Act 2011.
Trusts are created by a settlor, who gives assets to one or more trustees who undertake to use the assets for the benefit of beneficiaries. Like in contract law no formality is required to make a trust, except. To protect the settlor, English law demands a reasonable degree of certainty that a trust was intended. To be able to enforce the trust's terms, the courts require reasonable certainty about which assets were entrusted, which people were meant to be the trust's beneficiaries. Unlike some offshore tax havens and the United States, English law requires that a trust has at least one beneficiary if it is not charitable; the Charity Commission monitors how charity trustees perform their duties, ensures charities serve the public interest. Pensions and investment trusts are regulated to protect people's savings and ensure that trustees or fund managers are accountable. Beyond these expressly created trusts, English law recognises "resulting" and "constructive" trusts that arise by automatic operation of law to prevent unjust enrichment, to correct wrongdoing or to create property rights where intentions are unclear.
Although the word "trust" is used and constructive trusts are different because they create property-based remedies to protect people's rights, do not flow from the consent of the parties. Speaking, trustees owe a range of duties to their beneficiaries. If a trust document is silent, trustees must avoid any possibility of a conflict of interest, manage the trust's affairs with reasonable care and skill, only act for purposes consistent with the trust's terms; some of these duties can be excluded, except where the statute makes duties compulsory, but all trustees must act in good faith in the best interests of the beneficiaries. If trustees breach their duties, the beneficiaries may make a claim for all property wrongfully paid away to be restored, may trace and follow what was trust property and claim restitution from any third party who ought to have known of the breach of trust. Statements of equitable principle stretch back to the Ancient Greeks in the work of Aristotle, while examples of rules analogous to trusts were found in the Roman law testamentary institution of the fideicommissum, the Islamic proprietary institution of the Waqf.
However, English trusts law is a indigenous development that began in the Middle Ages, from the time of the 11th and 12th century crusades. After William the Conqueror became King in 1066, one "common law" of England was created. Common law courts regarded property as an indivisible entity, as it had been under Roman law and continental versions of civil law. During the crusades, landowners who went to fight would transfer title to their land to a person they trusted so that feudal services could be performed and received, but many who returned found that the people they entrusted refused to transfer their title deed back. Sometimes, common law courts would not acknowledge that anybody had rights in the property except the holder of the legal title deeds. So claimants petitioned the King to sidestep the common law courts; the King delegated hearing of petitions to his Lord Chancellor, who established the Court of Chancery as more cases were heard. Where it appeared "inequitable" to let someone with legal title hold onto land, the Lord Chancellor could declare that the real owner "in equity" was another person, if this is what good conscience dictated.
The Court of Chancery determined that the true "use" or "benefit" of property did not belong to the person on the title. The cestui que use, the owner in equity, could be a different person. So English law recognised a split between legal and equitable owner, between someone who controlled title and another for whose benefit the land would be used, it was the beginning of trust law. The same logic was useful for Franciscan friars, who would transfer title of land to others as they were precluded from holding property by their vows of poverty; when the courts said that one person's legal title to property was subject to an obligation to use that property for another person, there was a trust. During the 15th century and 16th century, "uses" or "trusts" were employed to avoid the pa
United Kingdom company law
The United Kingdom company law regulates corporations formed under the Companies Act 2006. Governed by the Insolvency Act 1986, the UK Corporate Governance Code, European Union Directives and court cases, the company is the primary legal vehicle to organise and run business. Tracing their modern history to the late Industrial Revolution, public companies now employ more people and generate more of wealth in the United Kingdom economy than any other form of organisation; the United Kingdom was the first country to draft modern corporation statutes, where through a simple registration procedure any investors could incorporate, limit liability to their commercial creditors in the event of business insolvency, where management was delegated to a centralised board of directors. An influential model within Europe, the Commonwealth and as an international standard setter, UK law has always given people broad freedom to design the internal company rules, so long as the mandatory minimum rights of investors under its legislation are complied with.
Company law, or corporate law, can be broken down into two main fields. Corporate governance in the UK mediates the rights and duties among shareholders, employees and directors. Since the board of directors habitually possesses the power to manage the business under a company constitution, a central theme is what mechanisms exist to ensure directors' accountability. UK law is "shareholder friendly" in that shareholders, to the exclusion of employees exercise sole voting rights in the general meeting; the general meeting holds a series of minimum rights to change the company constitution, issue resolutions and remove members of the board. In turn, directors owe a set of duties to their companies. Directors must carry out their responsibilities with competence, in good faith and undivided loyalty to the enterprise. If the mechanisms of voting do not prove enough for minority shareholders, directors' duties and other member rights may be vindicated in court. Of central importance in public and listed companies is the securities market, typified by the London Stock Exchange.
Through the Takeover Code the UK protects the right of shareholders to be treated and trade their shares. Corporate finance concerns the two money raising options for limited companies. Equity finance involves the traditional method of issuing shares to build up a company's capital. Shares can contain any rights the company and purchaser wish to contract for, but grant the right to participate in dividends after a company earns profits and the right to vote in company affairs. A purchaser of shares is helped to make an informed decision directly by prospectus requirements of full disclosure, indirectly through restrictions on financial assistance by companies for purchase of their own shares. Debt finance means getting loans for the price of a fixed annual interest repayment. Sophisticated lenders, such as banks contract for a security interest over the assets of a company, so that in the event of default on loan repayments they may seize the company's property directly to satisfy debts. Creditors are to some extent, protected by courts' power to set aside unfair transactions before a company goes under, or recoup money from negligent directors engaged in wrongful trading.
If a company is unable to pay its debts as they fall due, UK insolvency law requires an administrator to attempt a rescue of the company. If rescue proves impossible, a company's life ends when its assets are liquidated, distributed to creditors and the company is struck off the register. If a company becomes insolvent with no assets it can be wound up by a creditor, for a fee, or more by the tax creditor. Company law in its modern shape dates from the mid-19th century, however an array of business associations developed long before. In medieval times traders would do business through common law constructs, such as partnerships. Whenever people acted together with a view to profit, the law deemed. Early guilds and livery companies were often involved in the regulation of competition between traders; as England sought to build a mercantile Empire, the government created corporations under a Royal Charter or an Act of Parliament with the grant of a monopoly over a specified territory. The best known example, established in 1600, was the British East India Company.
Queen Elizabeth I granted it the exclusive right to trade with all countries to the east of the Cape of Good Hope. Corporations at this time would act on the government's behalf, bringing in revenue from its exploits abroad. Subsequently, the Company became integrated with British military and colonial policy, just as most UK corporations were dependent on the British navy's ability to control trade routes on the high seas. A similar chartered company, the South Sea Company, was established in 1711 to trade in the Spanish South American colonies, but met with less success; the South Sea Company's monopoly rights were backed by the Treaty of Utrecht, signed in 1713 as a settlement following the War of Spanish Succession, which gave the United Kingdom an assiento to trade, to sell slaves in the region for thirty years. In fact the Spanish let only one ship a year enter. Unaware of the problems, investors in the UK, enticed by company promoters' extravagant promises of profit, bought thousands of shares.
By 1717, the South Sea Company was so wealthy. This accelerated the inflation of the share price further, as did the Royal Exchange and London Assurance Corporation Act 1719, whi
United Kingdom insolvency law
United Kingdom insolvency law regulates companies in the United Kingdom which are unable to repay their debts. While UK bankruptcy law concerns the rules for natural persons, the term insolvency is used for companies formed under the Companies Act 2006. "Insolvency" means being unable to pay debts. Since the Cork Report of 1982, the modern policy of UK insolvency law has been to attempt to rescue a company, in difficulty, to minimise losses and distribute the burdens between the community, employees and other stakeholders that result from enterprise failure. If a company cannot be saved it is "liquidated", so that the assets are sold off to repay creditors according to their priority; the main sources of law include the Insolvency Act 1986, the Insolvency Rules 1986 ), the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986, the Employment Rights Act 1996 Part XII, the Insolvency Regulation 1346/2000 and case law. Numerous other Acts, statutory instruments and cases relating to labour, banking and conflicts of laws shape the subject.
UK law grants the greatest protection to banks or other parties that contract for a security interest. If a security is "fixed" over a particular asset, this gives priority in being paid over other creditors, including employees and most small businesses that have traded with the insolvent company. A "floating charge", not permitted in many countries and remains controversial in the UK, can sweep up all future assets, but the holder is subordinated in statute to a limited sum of employees' wage and pension claims, around 20 per cent for other unsecured creditors. Security interests have to be publicly registered, on the theory that transparency will assist commercial creditors in understanding a company's financial position before they contract; however the law still allows "title retention clauses" and "Quistclose trusts" which function just like security but do not have to be registered. Secured creditors dominate insolvency procedures, because a floating charge holder can select the administrator of its choice.
In law, administrators are meant to prioritise rescuing a company, owe a duty to all creditors. In practice, these duties are found to be broken, the most typical outcome is that an insolvent company's assets are sold as a going concern to a new buyer, which can include the former management: but free from creditors' claims and with many job losses. Other possible procedures include a "voluntary arrangement", if three quarters of creditors can voluntarily agree to give the company a debt haircut, receivership in a limited number of enterprise types, liquidation where a company's assets are sold off. Enforcement rates by insolvency practitioners remain low, but in theory an administrator or liquidator can apply for transactions at an undervalue to be cancelled, or unfair preferences to some creditors be revoked. Directors can be sued for breach of duty, or disqualified, including negligently trading a company when it could not have avoided insolvency. Insolvency law's basic principles still remain contested, its rules show a compromise of conflicting views.
The modern history of corporate insolvency law in the UK began with the first companies legislation in 1844. However, many principles of insolvency are rooted in bankruptcy laws that trace back to ancient times. Regulation of bankruptcy was a necessary part of every legal system, is found in the Hammurabi Code, the Twelve Tables of the Roman Republic, the Talmud, the Corpus Juris Civilis. Ancient laws used a variety of methods for distributing losses among creditors, satisfaction of debts came from a debtor's own body. A debtor might be all three. In England, the Magna Carta 1215 clause 9 set out rules that people's land would not be seized if they had chattels or money to repay debts; the Bankruptcy Act 1542 introduced the modern principle of pari passu distribution of losses among creditors. However, the 1542 Act still reflected the ancient notion that people who could not pay their debts were criminals, required debtors to be imprisoned; the Fraudulent Conveyances Act 1571 ensured that any transactions by the debtor with "intent to delay, hinder or defraud creditors and others of their just and lawful actions" would be "clearly and utterly void".
The view of bankrupts as subject to the total will of creditors, well represented by Shylock demanding his "pound of flesh" in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, began to wane around the 17th century. In the Bankruptcy Act 1705, the Lord Chancellor was given power to discharge bankrupts from having to repay all debts, once disclosure of all assets and various procedures had been fulfilled. Debtors' prison was a common end. Prisoners were required to pay fees to the prison guards, making them further indebted, they could be bound in manacles and chains, the sanitary conditions were foul. An early 18th century scandal broke after the friend of a Tory MP died in debt prison, in February 1729 a Gaols Committee reported on the pestilent conditions; the basic legislative scheme and moral sentiment remained the same. In 1769, William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England remarked it was not justifiable for any person other than a trader to "encumber himself with debts of any considerable value."
And at the end of the century, Lord Kenyon in Fowler v Padget reasserted the old sentiment that, "Bankruptcy is considered a crime and a bankrupt in the old laws is called an offender." Since the South Sea Company and stock market disaster in 1720, l
A Queen's Counsel, or King's Counsel during the reign of a king, is an eminent lawyer, appointed by the monarch to be one of "Her Majesty's Counsel learned in the law." The term is recognised as an honorific. The position exists in some Commonwealth jurisdictions around the world, but other Commonwealth countries have either abolished the position, or re-named it to eliminate monarchical connotations, such as "Senior Counsel" or "Senior Advocate". Queen's Counsel is an office, conferred by the Crown, recognised by courts. Members have the privilege of sitting within the bar of court; as members wear silk gowns of a particular design, appointment as Queen's Counsel is known informally as taking silk, hence QCs are colloquially called silks. Appointments are made from within the legal profession on the basis of merit rather than a particular level of experience. However, successful applicants tend to be barristers, or advocates with 15 years of experience or more; the Attorney General, Solicitor-General and King's Serjeants were King's Counsel in Ordinary in the Kingdom of England.
The first Queen's Counsel Extraordinary was Sir Francis Bacon, given a patent giving him precedence at the Bar in 1597, formally styled King's Counsel in 1603. The new rank of King's Counsel contributed to the gradual obsolescence of the more senior serjeant-at-law by superseding it; the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General had succeeded the King's Serjeants as leaders of the Bar in Tudor times, though not technically senior until 1623 and 1813, respectively. But the King's Counsel emerged into eminence only in the early 1830s, prior to when they were few in number, it became the standard means to recognise a barrister as a senior member of the profession, the numbers multiplied accordingly. It became of greater professional importance to become a KC, the serjeants declined; the KCs inherited the prestige of their priority before the courts. The earliest English law list, published in 1775, lists 165 members of the Bar, of whom 14 were King's Counsel, a proportion of about 8.5%. As of 2010 the same proportion existed, though the number of barristers had increased to about 12,250 in independent practice.
In 1839 the number of Queen's Counsel was seventy. In 1882, the number of Queen's Counsel was 187; the list of Queen's Counsel in the Law List of 1897 gave the names of 238, of whom hardly one third appeared to be in actual practice. In 1959, the number of practising Queen's Counsel was 181. In each of the five years up to 1970, the number of practising Queen's Counsel was 208, 209, 221, 236 and 262, respectively. In each of the years 1973 to 1978, the number of practising Queen's Counsel was 329, 345, 370, 372, 384 and 404, respectively. In 1989, the number of practising Queen's Counsel was 601. In each of the years 1991 to 2000, the number of practising Queen's Counsel was 736, 760, 797, 845, 891, 925, 974, 1006, 1043, 1072, respectively; the title traditionally depends on the sex of the sovereign. The current Queen, Elizabeth II has had a long reign, few if any people appointed as King's Counsel survive, it can be assumed that, should the Queen die and the reign pass to a descendant, holders of the title will again become KC, as the next three in line to the throne are male heirs.
Queen's Counsel and serjeants were prohibited, at least from the mid-nineteenth century onward, from drafting pleadings alone. They were not permitted to appear in court without a junior barrister, they had to have chambers in London. From the beginning, they were not allowed to appear against the Crown without a special licence, but this was given as a formality; this stipulation was important in criminal cases, which are brought in the name of the Crown. The result was that, until 1920 in England and Wales, King's and Queen's Counsel had to have a licence to appear in criminal cases for the defence; these restrictions had a number of consequences: they made the taking of "silk" something of a professional risk, because the appointment abolished at a stroke some of the staple work of the junior barrister. By the end of the twentieth century, all of these rules had been abolished one by one. Appointment as QC is now a matter of prestige only, with no formal disadvantages. Queen's Counsel were traditionally selected from barristers, rather than from lawyers in general, because they were counsel appointed to conduct court work on behalf of the Crown.
Although the limitations on private instruction were relaxed, QCs continued to be selected from barristers, who had the sole right of audience in the higher courts. The first woman appointed King's Counsel was Helen Kinnear in Canada in 1934; the first women to be appointed as King's Counsel in the United Kingdom were Helena Normanton and Rose Heilbron in 1949. In 1994 solicitors of England and Wales became entitled to gain rights of audience in the higher courts, some 275 were so entitled in 1995. In 1995, these solicitors alone became entitled to apply for appointment as Queen's Counsel, the first two solicitors were appointed on 27 March 1997, out of 68 new QCs; these were Arthur Marriott, partner of the London office of the American law firm of Wilmer Cutler and Pickering based in Washington, D. C. and Law