Civil IssuesRecentSocial Issues

The Prevalence of the Rule of Law in the United Kingdom:

By Qasim Swati (United Kingdom)

The rule of law is the restriction of the arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established laws. “This is”, as defined by the United Nations, “a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards.” This is a system where there is equality before the law, supremacy of the law, accountability to the law, separation of powers, fairness in the application of the law, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness, participation in decision-making and legal and procedural transparency, as explained by the United Nations.

The United Kingdom is renowned for its unique legal system globally, which has been adopted and followed by the majority of its former colonies. However, with the exception of few former British colonies, the rest of these countries do not apply the UK legal system in its true sense, due to certain factors, like corruption, political instability, economic stagnation, the presence of dictatorship and other such issues. Consequently, there is no rule of law in such countries.

On the contrary, the rule of law is one of the core British Values, where everyone is expected to obey the law, including those who make the law, those who promulgate the law and those who decide cases in a law court (judges). All the government departments in the UK are directly responsible for damage caused by what they do. No one is permitted to break the law, and everyone has the right to be treated equally by the law. In the same way, no politicians, powerful officials, rich and influential people, and, even, members of the British Royal family are allowed to interfere with the judicial system of the country or influence the application of the law. Accordingly, this is not easy for those in power, bigwigs and other fat cats to tamper with and manipulate the law enforcement officials in the United Kingdom.

Despite having specific privileges due to which the royals can be allowed to break certain laws and rules, neither Queen Elizabeth II nor other members of the family of Her Majesty try to abuse their powers and disrespect the UK law, but they do their best to follow the laws and rules of the country in a way as expected from everyone else in the British society, instead.

Although Her Majesty the Queen is said to be effectively exempt from the law, as she is above the law and cannot be subpoenaed, as the Sovereign retains immunity from prosecution, thus, she cannot be the subject of civil and criminal proceedings or be arrested, yet she is still aware of the significance of obeying the law and, thus, respecting it. This is the reason why it has been made clear on the royal family’s official website, as “Although civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Sovereign as a person under UK law, The Queen is careful to ensure that all her activities in her personal capacity are carried out in strict accordance with the law.”

Qasim Swati is a freelance journalist, writer and human rights activist, based in the UK, and can be reached at or

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