Welsh law

Welsh law is the primary and secondary legislation generated by the National Assembly for Wales, using devolved authority granted in the Government of Wales Act 2006 and in effect since May 2007. Each piece of Welsh legislation is known as an Act of the Assembly. The first Assembly legislation to be proposed was the NHS Redress (Wales) Measure 2008. This was the first time in almost 500 years that Wales has had its own laws, since Cyfraith Hywel, a version of Celtic law, was abolished and replaced by English law through the Laws in Wales Acts, enacted between 1535 and 1542 during the reign of King Henry VIII.[1]

Legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales

Both the Government of Wales Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 2006 set out areas of devolved responsibility for the National Assembly for Wales (commonly known as the Welsh Assembly). The 2006 Act granted the Assembly legislative competence to make laws (known as Assembly Measures) in clearly defined "matters". In order to draft laws within its areas of responsibility, but where the powers of legislative competence have not been devolved to it, the Welsh Assembly can request these powers using a Legislative Competency Order or can receive the transfer of power and the right to make laws through parliamentary bills at Westminster.

Each Order in Council for an area of legislation must be approved by the Secretary of State for Wales, both Houses of Parliament, and the Queen in Council, in order for the Assembly to legislate in that area. Once the Queen has approved the Order, the new area of legislative competence is added to Schedule 5, Part 1 of the Government of Wales Act 2006.[2] There is a Counsel General for Wales who oversees the approval and creation of these laws, and gives advice to the Welsh Government.

The 2006 Act also included provisions which would allow for a referendum to be held on whether to grant the Assembly legislative competence to pass primary legislation to be known as "Acts of the Assembly" in all matters within twenty subject areas without the need for further Legislative Competency Orders. A referendum under these provisions was held in March 2011 and resulted in a vote in favour of granting the assembly the competence to pass the Acts of the Assembly. Therefore, the Assembly now has the legislative competence to pass Acts of the Assembly in all twenty devolved areas.

Following the devolution of legislative competence to the Welsh Assembly in some area of responsibility, it is unlikely that the UK Parliament would draw up legislation in that area without a Legislative Consent Motion being passed by the Welsh Assembly to allow them to do so (Assembly Standing Order 26).[3] This is done to preserve the autonomy of the Welsh Assembly, and to prevent legislative confusion.

Areas to legislate: The devolved areas

These areas are "subjects" where the National Assembly for Wales can make legislation in the form of an Act of the Assembly.

The Assembly can also legislate in areas that affect only the Assembly itself, which is why the National Assembly for Wales field is included.

Referendum to make Acts of the Assembly

The Welsh Assembly was able to make only Assembly Measures, but the Assembly was given the option to call for a referendum, with added approval from the UK Parliament, to make Acts of the Assembly. This would not change much of the Assembly Measures system, and if the referendum should win, the Assembly Measures passed before that date would still be in force. It was considered that Assembly Measures are a build on to the Acts of the Assembly if the Assembly would these powers in future.

The referendum was held on 3 March 2011. The majority of the participants voted 'Yes' to the question "Do you want the Assembly now to be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for?".

Even so, future Welsh order in council laws may face veto from the UK Parliament, but the Assembly still is able to make laws in areas already devolved because once the referendum is approved, there are powers that are already in the government of Wales Act 2006 to make laws already approved by parliament when the act was passed. The Assembly can still request to make laws in areas using the Order in Council system but if the UK Parliament wants to legislate in a devolved area, it will require a motion to be passed by the Welsh Assembly, similar to the way the Scottish Parliament work at present. The power to make Acts of the Assembly are called Subjects, which are listed in schedule 7, part 1 of the Government of Wales Act 2006.[5]

English law and contemporary Welsh law

English law still applies to Wales under the present devolved settlement. Contemporary Welsh law governs the local aspects of Welsh life, whilst English law governs the more generic aspects. Because Welsh laws are ultimately derived from Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, some commentators consider this new system of laws to be another branch of English law. Unlike Scotland, for example, which has its own criminal and civil justice system, England and Wales still have a unified justice system.

English law still applies in Wales, but some laws in England, about matters that are devolved in Wales, may not apply in Wales. Once the Assembly has legislative competency to legislate in an area using Acts of the Assembly, the National Assembly can lead Wales down a different route, compared to English law. Some actions can be unlawful in Wales, but not in England or Scotland. For example, using an electric shock collar on a cat or dog is unlawful in Wales,[6] but not in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Wales-only laws

There are Acts of the United Kingdom Parliament that are classed as "Wales-only laws". Each Act contains provisions for the Welsh Assembly to make subordinate legislation on. Sometimes such Acts can also confer power to the National Assembly for Wales. An example of such a Wales-only law is the Transport (Wales) Act 2006.[7] This Act allows the National Assembly to make Orders to enforce the provisions in the Act. The Act does not confer power to the Assembly to make Assembly Measures.

A major difference is also the use of the Welsh language, as laws concerning it apply in Wales and not in England. The Welsh Language Act 1993 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which put the Welsh language on an equal footing with the English language in Wales with regard to the public sector. Welsh can also be spoken in Welsh courts.

Wales as a jurisdiction

As there is no criminal law within contemporary Welsh law, Wales is not generally considered a fourth jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. This is because the judiciary and the courts follow England and Wales law, which is made by the United Kingdom Parliament, and is not specific to Wales. Although Welsh law is recognised as separate in operation, this is not sufficient for Wales to constitute a separate legal jurisdiction. The One Wales agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru called for a review of criminal justice matters in Wales, and the question of whether they should be devolved to Wales, proposing that a Criminal and Youth Justice System within Welsh law.[8] Currently, however, there has been no such devolution of justice to the Assembly.[9]

See also


  1. ^ "BBC NEWS | UK | Wales | Assembly powers bill becomes law". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-09-19.
  2. ^ http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/60032--n.htm#sch5pt1
  3. ^ STANDING ORDER 26 - Consent in relation to UK Parliament Bills
  4. ^ BBC NEWS | Wales | Wales politics | First Welsh law's royal approval
  5. ^ http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/60032--r.htm#sch7pt1
  6. ^ "Electric shock dog collars banned in Wales". The Telegraph. 25 March 2010. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  7. ^ Transport (Wales) Act 2006
  8. ^ See Page 29
  9. ^ One Wales agreement


External links


A cantref (Welsh pronunciation: [ˈkantrɛ(v)]; plural cantrefi) was a medieval Welsh land division, particularly important in the administration of Welsh law.

Celtic law

A number of law codes have in the past been in use in the various Celtic nations since the Middle Ages.

While these vary considerably in details, there are certain points of similarity.

The Brehon Laws governed everyday life and politics in Ireland until the Norman invasion of 1171 (the word "Brehon" is an Anglicisation of breitheamh (earlier brithem), the Irish word for a judge). The laws were written in the Old Irish period (ca. 600–900 AD) and probably reflect the traditional laws of pre-Christian Ireland.

The codification of Welsh law has been traditionally ascribed to Hywel Dda, king of most of Wales between 942 and his death in 950. This was partly an adaptation of previously existing laws however. Welsh law remained in force in Wales until the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1282 for criminal cases, and until the Acts of Union in the mid-sixteenth century for civil cases.

Common features of these codes include an emphasis on the payment of compensation for a crime to the victim or the victim's kin rather than on punishment by the ruler. In other words, all law was tort law, with no "victimless" crimes or crimes against the State.

Civil procedure in England and Wales

English civil procedure shares much in common with the civil law systems of other common law countries.

The civil courts of England and Wales adopted an overwhelmingly unified body of rules as a result of the Woolf Reforms on 26 April 1999. These are collectively known as the Civil Procedure Rules and in all but some very confined areas replaced the Rules of the Supreme Court (applicable to the High Court of Justice) and the County Court Rules.


Compurgation, also called wager of law and oath-helping, was a defence used primarily in medieval law. A defendant could establish his innocence or nonliability by taking an oath and by getting a required number of persons, typically twelve, to swear they believed the defendant's oath. From Latin, com = with, purgare = make clean, cleanse, excuse.

Latin com is also an intensifier and turns a word into the superlative form, so compurgation, by etymology, means 'to thoroughly clean or excuse'.

The wager of law was essentially a character reference, initially by kin and later by neighbours (from the same region as the defendant), often 11 or 12 men, and it was a way to give credibility to the oath of a defendant at a time when a person's oath had more credibility than a written record. It can be compared to legal wager, which is the provision of surety at the beginning of legal action to minimize frivolous litigation.

Compurgation was found in early Germanic law, in early French law (très ancienne coutume de Bretagne), in Welsh law, and in the English ecclesiastical courts until the seventeenth century. In common law it was substantially abolished as a defence in felonies by the Constitutions of Clarendon in 1164. The defence was still permitted in civil actions for debt and vestiges of it survived until its statutory repeal at various times in common law countries: in England in 1833, and Queensland at some point before the Queensland Common Practice Act of 1867 which makes direct reference to the abolition of wager of law.

"Wager of Law, obsolete for centuries" was "a living fossil... a dead letter statute" and was repealed in England in 1833.

Criminal damage in English law

In English law, causing criminal damage was originally a common law offence. The offence was largely concerned with the protection of dwellings and the food supply, and few sanctions were imposed for damaging personal property. Liability was originally restricted to the payment of damages by way of compensation.

As time passed, specific laws were introduced to deal with particular situations as they were judged to require intervention, most particularly alongside the rise of mechanisation and urbanisation during the Industrial Revolution.

The modern law of criminal damage is mostly contained in the Criminal Damage Act 1971, which redefines or creates several offences protecting property rights. The Act provides a comprehensive structure covering merely preparatory acts to the most serious offences of arson and causing damage with intent to endanger life. As such, punishments vary from a fixed penalty to life imprisonment, and the court may order payment of compensation to a victim.

Cyfraith Hywel

Cyfraith Hywel (Welsh: [ˈkəvraiθ ˈhəwɛl]; Laws of Hywel), also known as Welsh law (Latin: Leges Walliæ), was the system of law practised in medieval Wales before its final conquest by England. Subsequently, the Welsh law's criminal codes were superseded by the Statute of Rhuddlan in AD 1284 and its civil codes by Henry VIII's series of Laws in Wales Acts between 1535 and 1542.

Welsh law was a form of Celtic law with many similarities to the Brehon law of Ireland and particularly the customs and terminology of the Britons of Strathclyde. It was passed down orally by jurists and bards and, according to tradition, only first codified during the reign of Hywel Dda in the mid-10th century. The earliest surviving manuscripts, however, are in Latin, date from the early 13th century, and show marked regional differences. The law is only known to have been revised by a few rulers (particularly Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, who was credited with revisions retained in the kingdom of Powys) but was obviously updated by jurists in response to changing jurisdictions and circumstances, so that the surviving manuscripts cannot be considered an accurate portrayal of Hywel's first code.

Notable features of Welsh law include the collective responsibility of kindreds (Welsh: cenedl) for their members; the gavelkind inheritance of land among all and only male descendants; a status-based system of blood money (galanas); slavery and serfdom; the inability of foreigners to naturalize earlier than the fourth generation; and very lax treatment of divorce and legitimacy that scandalized the non-native clergy.

Dangerous offender

In Canada and England and Wales, certain convicted persons may be designated as dangerous offenders and subject to a longer, or indefinite, term of preventive detention in order to protect the public.

English law

English law is the common law legal system of England and Wales, comprising mainly criminal law and civil law, each branch having its own courts and procedures.


Galanas in Welsh law was a payment made by a killer and his family to the family of his or her victim. It is similar to éraic in Ireland and the Anglo-Saxon weregild.

The compensation depended on the status of the victim, but could also be affected by the circumstances of the killing, for example a killing from ambush or by poison meant the payment of double galanas. The payment was due from relatives as distant as the fifth cousins of the killer, with each degree of relationship paying double the rate of the next, for example first cousins of the killer paid double the sum payable by second cousins. Women paid half the rate of payment by men. The first third of the galanas falls on the homicide, his father and mother and brothers and sisters. The remainder is shared between the kindred, with two thirds falling on the father's kindred and one third on the mother's kindred.

The same rules applied to the receipt of galanas. In the existing texts, dating from the 13th century, one third of the sum paid was due to the Lord as the enforcing authority, but this is considered to be an innovation.

High Court of Chivalry

Her Majesty's High Court of Chivalry is a civil law (i.e., non common law) court in English and Welsh law with jurisdiction over matters of heraldry. The court has been in existence since the fourteenth century; however, it rarely sits. The sole judge is now the hereditary Earl Marshal of England, the Duke of Norfolk, though if not a professional lawyer, he normally appoints a professional lawyer as his lieutenant or surrogate.In Scotland, these types of cases are heard in the Court of the Lord Lyon, which is a standing civil and criminal court, with its own judge – the Lord Lyon King of Arms and its own procurator fiscal (public prosecutor) under the Scottish legal system.

Hywel Dda

Hywel Dda (English: Hywel the Good) or Hywel ap Cadell (c.880 – 950) was a King of Deheubarth who eventually came to rule most of Wales. He became the sole king of Seisyllwg in 920 and shortly thereafter established Deheubarth, and proceeded to gain control over the entire country from Prestatyn to Pembroke. As a descendant of Rhodri Mawr through his father Cadell, Hywel was a member of the Dinefwr branch of the dynasty. He was recorded as King of the Britons in the Annales Cambriae and the Annals of Ulster.

Hywel is highly esteemed among other medieval Welsh rulers. His name is particularly linked with the codification of traditional Welsh law, which were thenceforth known as the Laws of Hywel Dda. The latter part of his name (Dda, lit. “Good”) refers to the fact that his laws were just and good. The historian Dafydd Jenkins sees in them compassion rather than punishment, plenty of common sense and recognition of the rights of women. Hywel Dda was a well-educated man even by modern standards, having a good knowledge of Welsh, Latin, and English.The office building and original home of the National Assembly for Wales is named Tŷ Hywel (“Hywel House” or “Hywel's House”) in honour of Hywel Dda. The original Assembly chamber, now known as Siambr Hywel (“Hywel's Chamber”), is used for educational courses and for children and young people's debates. The local health board of south-west Wales also bears his name.

Law of the United Kingdom

Sub-nationally, the United Kingdom has three legal systems, each of which derives from a particular geographical area and for a variety of historical reasons: English law, Scots law, and Northern Ireland law. Since 2007, as a result of the passage of the Government of Wales Act 2006 by Parliament, there also exists purely Welsh law. However, unlike the other three laws, this is not a separate legal system per se, being merely the primary and secondary legislation generated by the National Assembly for Wales, interpreted in accordance with the doctrines of English law, and not impacting upon English common law (except where such Welsh legislation ousts a common law rule by virtue of being a superior form of law). There is a substantial overlap between these three legal systems, and the three legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom, these being England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Each legal system defaults to each jurisdiction, and court systems of each jurisdiction further the relevant system of law through jurisprudence. In private law it is possible for people in certain jurisdictions to use the law of other jurisdictions, for example a company in Edinburgh, Scotland and a company in Belfast, Northern Ireland are free to contract in English law. This is inapplicable in public law (for example, criminal law), where there are set rules of procedure in each jurisdiction. Overarching these systems is the law of the United Kingdom, also known as United Kingdom law or (more rarely) British law. British law arises where laws apply to the United Kingdom and/or its citizens as a whole, most obviously constitutional law, but also other areas, for instance tax law.

The United Kingdom does not have a single legal system because it was created by the political union of previously independent countries. Article 19 of the Treaty of Union, put into effect by the Acts of Union in 1707, created the Kingdom of Great Britain, but guaranteed the continued existence of Scotland's separate legal system. The Acts of Union of 1800, which combined Great Britain and Ireland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, contained no equivalent provisions but preserved the principle of separate courts to be held in Ireland, of which the part called Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom.

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the highest court in the land for all criminal and civil cases in England and Wales and Northern Ireland, and for all civil cases in Scots law. The Supreme Court is also the final court (in the normal sense of the term) for interpreting United Kingdom law. Note, however, that unlike in other systems (for example America), the Supreme Court cannot strike down statutes, and its cases can be expressly overriden by Parliament, by virtue of the doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty. The Supreme Court came into being in October 2009, replacing the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. In England and Wales, the court system is headed by the Senior Courts of England and Wales, consisting of the Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice (for civil cases) and the Crown Court (for criminal cases). The Courts of Northern Ireland follow the same pattern. In Scotland the chief courts are the Court of Session, for civil cases, and the High Court of Justiciary, for criminal cases. Sheriff courts have no equivalent outside Scotland, as they deal with both criminal and civil caseloads.

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is the highest court of appeal for several independent Commonwealth countries, the British overseas territories, and the British Crown dependencies. There are also immigration courts with UK-wide jurisdiction — the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and Special Immigration Appeals Commission. The Employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal have jurisdiction throughout Great Britain, but not Northern Ireland.

European Union law is actively transposed into the UK legal systems under the UK parliament's law-making power, in fulfillment of its EU treaty obligations, not inherently by acts of the European Union Parliament.

Measure of the National Assembly for Wales

A Measure of the National Assembly for Wales (informally, an Assembly Measure) is primary legislation in Wales that is a category lower than an Act of Parliament. In the case of Contemporary Welsh Law, the difference with Acts is that the competence to pass Measures is subject to 'LCOs' or Legislative Competence Order, which transfers powers to the Assembly by amending Schedule 5 of the Government of Wales Act 2006.

It was a lower form of primary legislation as it did not contain a large bulk of powers compared to the power to make acts. In Wales each Assembly Measure had to be accompanied with a Matter which was transferred using the Legislative Competence Order (LCO) system. Each Assembly Measure, like an Act of Parliament, had to have made provision for a matter within the remit of the legislative competency of the Assembly.

Following a referendum held in 2011, the assembly gained powers to make primary legislation known as Acts of the Assembly. These powers came into force after the 2011 assembly elections and the assembly is no longer able to pass Measures. Existing measures will remain valid unless repealed by the assembly in the future.

St Ishmaels

St Ishmaels or St Ishmael's (Welsh: Llanismel) is a village, parish and community close to the harbour of Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The community comprises most of the parish of St Ishmaels and had a population of 490 at the 2001 census. The ward includes the communities of Herbrandston, Dale and Marloes and St. Brides. The community was subsequently merged with other communities and only the ward remained with the name St Ishmael's. This covers the entire peninsula with at total population at the 2011 census of 1,405.

The parish church of the local Saint Ismael is outside the village, hidden in a small valley near the Haven. In the Age of the Saints, it may have been the seat of the bishop of the cantref of Rhos. As Llanismael, it was considered one of the principal dioceses of Dyfed under medieval Welsh law, second only to Menevia (modern St Davids). With the Norman conquest, St Ishmaels became part of the Lordship of Haverfordwest. The church is a grade II listed building The south, west and east of the parish is bordered by the Milford Haven estuary with numerous important bird and marine life within the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. The north boundary is mainly farmland used for both grazing and arable. Prince Charles's first footsteps on Welsh soil were at Lindsway Bay, to the south of the village with the royal yacht anchored off the beach.

Tŷ unnos

Tŷ unnos (pl.: tai unnos; English: one night house) is an old Welsh tradition that has parallels in other folk traditions in other areas of the British Isles.

It was believed by some that if a person could build a house on common land in one night, the land then belonged to them as a freehold. There are other variations on this tradition, for example that the test was to have a fire burning in the hearth by the following morning and the squatter could then extend the land around by the distance they could throw an axe from the four corners of the house.


A visitor, in English and Welsh law and history, is an overseer of an autonomous ecclesiastical or eleemosynary institution, often a charitable institution set up for the perpetual distribution of the founder's alms and bounty, who can intervene in the internal affairs of that institution. Those with such visitors are mainly cathedrals, chapels, schools, colleges, universities, and hospitals.

Many visitors hold their role ex officio, by serving as the British sovereign, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, the Lord President of the Council, the Lord Chief Justice, or the bishop of a particular diocese. Others can be appointed in various ways, depending on the constitution of the organization in question. Bishops are usually the visitors to their own cathedrals. The Queen usually delegates her visitatorial functions to the Lord Chancellor. During the reform of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the 19th century, Parliament ordered Visitations to the universities to make inquiries and to reform the university and college statutes.

There is a ceremonial element to the role, and the visitor may also be called upon to give advice where an institution expresses doubt as to its powers under its charter and statutes. However, the most important function of the visitor was within academic institutions, where the visitor had to determine disputes arising between the institution and its members. The right of the visitor, and not the courts, to adjudge on alleged deviations from the statutes of academic colleges was affirmed in the case of Philips v. Bury, 1694, in which the House of Lords overruled a judgement of the Court of King's Bench. Traditionally, the courts have been exempted from any jurisdiction over student complaints. There had been much speculation that this contravened the Human Rights Act 1998. However, the Higher Education Act 2004 transferred the jurisdiction of Visitors over the grievances of students in English and Welsh universities to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.

Wales Golf

Wales Golf is the national governing body of amateur golf in Wales. It is responsible for administration and enforcement of the handicapping and course rating systems for ladies and men in Wales. Wales Golf organise competitions, including the National Championships in Wales, and select and manage all Welsh amateur golf teams. It also makes, maintains and publishes any necessary rules and regulations.Wales Golf is based at Catsash, Newport.

Welsh Football Trust

The FAW Trust (Welsh: Ymddiriedolaeth Bêl-droed Cymru) (WFT) (founded 1996) is recognised as a governing body of sport in Wales by Sport Wales. It was established by the Football Association of Wales (FAW) to encourage more children in Wales to play football, to develop player and coaching talent and to support the future success of Welsh national teams. In addition to the FAW, the WFT is supported by the Welsh Assembly Government, Sport Wales and the Premier League.The Welsh Football Trust is based at the new home of Welsh football, the National Football Development Centre, Dragon Park, Newport International Sports Village, Newport.

Wales articles
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Common fields
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