B1.10 Criminal Law


The Government establishes what is in the public interest and sets Policy Objectives to achieve it. These concepts become reality through making laws and by establishing a legal framework through legislation (laws). The laws are interpreted by policy guidance, such as an Approved Codes of Practice.

Statute Law

Statute Law is legislation, which is made by Parliament. It may be:

  • Primary legislation.
  • Secondary legislation.


Primary Legislation

Primary Legislation is Acts of Parliament, such as the Environmental Protection Act 1990 or the Environment Act 1995. These are usually enabling Acts in which Parliament describes general principles.

Subordinate Legislation

Subordinate Legislation includes Statutory Instruments, which are regulations made under the authority of an Act of Parliament. Such regulations provide the specific detail required to implement the requirements of an Act of Parliament.

There are up to 3500 of these published annually, and they are numbered sequentially within each year. They are important documents, which often provide the detail required for the application of the Statute, and some contain provisions for the commencement of an Act (when it comes into force).

An example is the Site Waste Management Plans Regulations 2008 [SI 314].

Case Law

Under English law, the interpretation of the law is left to Judges. To ensure continuity, Judges often refer back to previous decisions made in similar cases. This is also known as Common Law.

Decisions made by the higher courts outweigh (bind) the decisions made by the lower courts.

Approved Code of Practices

An Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) is written in plain English to guide organisations in complying with a particular piece of legislation. For example, there is an ACOP covering the Duty of Care Regulations. The most famous of all UK ACOPs is probably the Highway Code.

ACOPs have an oddity of legal status. If you comply with the requirements laid out in the ACOP you are deemed to have complied with the associated statutory instrument. However… although an organisation does not have a statutory duty to comply with an ACOP, if a prosecution was pending, it is the responsibility of the organisation to prove that it complied with the legal requirements in a way other than that listed in the ACOP.


Guidance is issued to assist people in understanding the requirement of legislation. In Environmental terms, a good example is the series of Pollution Prevention Guidelines issued by the Environment Agency. Guidance does not have any legal force.