Comparison between USA and UK’s Judicial System

Comparison between USA and UK’s Judicial System



Comparison between USA and UK’s Judicial System

            Though the Judicial system in the United States and the United Kingdom share the same roots, they differ in various fundamental factors. In both countries, they have separate courts for minor crimes but have singular courts for complex cases. The hierarchy starts from crown courts in the UK and district courts in the USA respectively. The distinguishing factors range from their judicial review styles to their policing systems. In the UK, the parliament appears to have supremacy over the courts rendering its judicial review weak. The parliament is not bound by a rigid constitution thus; it can overrule a court’s decision citing that the respective legislation holds. Conversely, in the US the Supreme Court has the mandate to overturn any law that is found to be contrary to the country’s constitution. The process also sets precedence upon which subsequent laws will be judged. Analyzing the difference between the judicial systems’ the UK and the USA will help the two countries understand the corrective measures they require to deliver justice.

            The policing systems differ as the UK police consider themselves public servants rather than the government’s instruments of maintaining law and order like the US. It follows that only 5% of the police carry guns (Bradford, 2014). Rapport built between the public and the police is edified making them appear approachable. The second amendment in the US’s constitution protects its citizen’s right to bear arms. It follows that their police force has to be equally militarised. This has led to proliferation of shooting of unarmed men. In order to boost police legitimacy concomitantly curb the use of excessive force the US, its policing system should be revised to emulate that of the UK.

            The criminal systems in the two countries also differ. The US judiciary differs from its British roots in its application of criminal justice. The British judiciary has done away with the grand jury leaving decisions solely to a magistrate. If the case is of a complex nature, it is committed for deposition in their crown court. Furthermore, the panel of judges in UK can amend an indictment after the case is closed. On the US, the above would be unconstitutional, as it would undermine the Fifth Amendment. Another key difference arises in their respective machinery of prosecution. While in Britain, a private citizen can lodge criminal prosecution in The US the above action is only reserved for the government. However, the said private prosecutions are rarely pursued owing to the economic costs it has on the person. It follows the citizens forgo their option leaving it to the government (Maruna, 2011). The police do not incur similar charges as their prosecutions are publicly funded. The prosecutions are further restricted by necessitating that the said private citizen to get the consent from the Director of Public Prosecution or his office. The provision though constrained is perceived to curb misuse of the law by public officials.  Both the United States Attorney General and the British Director of Public Prosecutions are supposed to be insulated from political manipulation. Towards this end, they are given security of tenure, which is successful. Subsequently, the two can exercise judicial discretion to prosecute free from external interference.

            With an increase in the globalization of crime, there has been increased cooperation between the international police the UK and USA’s law enforcement agencies.  For them to be able to stymie the transnational nature of modern crime, their respective law enforcements have to overcome the limits imposed by their jurisdiction. To this end, they have to coordinate with a body that is better placed to deal with criminals across all borders. The shared perception of terrorism as a common threat has helped to increase cooperation (Dixon, 2011).  The said coordination does not come without its hurdles. Each country often desires its values of law enforcement to take precedence over Interpol’s custom of administrating justice. The US police cooperation is done by posting law enforcement officers as embassy attaches. The UK has emulated the former’-s method. However, the above strategy has been viewed as a compromise of the sovereignty of the respective nations. After the 9/11, bombing the resistance to the presence of the US law enforcement in foreign lands subsided only to resurge later. It follows that the US as well as the UK have had to come up with diplomatic solutions to align their enforcement styles with the standard Interpol procedures. The USA and UK overtly attempt to show cooperation with the Interpol even sharing intelligence. Unfortunately, they have a propensity to undermine Interpol’s authority, as they trust their respective law enforcements more. Their political influence helps them guide the course of action the international police takes.

            The major differences in substantive and procedural laws in these two countries arise from their prosecution machinery. The USA has no provision for private criminal prosecution akin to its European counterpart. The US society is militarized owing to liberal gun laws. The availability of guns increases the chances of excessive force by the police. The rise in common threats has led to concerted international effort among law enforcement agencies. The US and the UK have been in the forefront of the increased cooperation. The Judicial review of the UK is relatively weak as the parliament can allow a statute to hold even when the courts have found it to undermine the spirit of the constitution. In the USA, the Supreme Court can nullify such laws.


Bradford, B. (2014). Policing and social identity: Procedural justice, inclusion and cooperation between police and public. Policing and Society, 24(1), 22-43.

Dixon, R. (2011). Weak-Form Judicial Review and American Exceptionalism. U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper, (348).

Maruna, S. (2011). Judicial rehabilitation and the ‘Clean Bill of Health’in criminal justice. European Journal of Probation, 3(1), 97-117.

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