Skip main navigation

Other organisations that uphold the Rule of Law

This article introduces some other organisations within the UK that uphold the Rule of Law.

This article introduces some other organisations within the UK that uphold the Rule of Law.

Our focus throughout this course is on the judiciary of the UK, but before we move on to look at the judiciary and their role in upholding the Rule of Law in more detail, it is worth returning to the definition of the Rule of Law – to paraphrase Dicey’s formulation:

  1. No person is punishable except for breach of the law.
  2. No person is above the law.
  3. General principles of the constitution are with us as a result of judicial decisions.

Some examples of additional organisations upholding the Rule of Law (a non-exhaustive list) are given below:


Parliament, as the legislature creating the laws of the land, should uphold the Rule of Law by making laws as fairly as possible, without favouring a particular group of citizens or UK residents (in accordance with point 1 above).

Parliament will often protect those who may be discriminated against. A good example is age discrimination – the Equality Act 2010 updated various anti-discrimination laws including age discrimination, which had not been unlawful until a few years before the Equality Act 2010, but when the Equality Act 2010 came into force it became unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of their age.

UK Government:

The Prime Minister, ministers and civil servants implement UK laws and form the main part of the executive branch of the UK. The role of government minister involves making decisions that affect the public, and these decisions must be taken fairly and lawfully- see judicial review below.

One of the ways in which ministers uphold the rule of law is the Attorney General’s power to review lenient sentences passed by the courts. The Attorney General in the UK is a government minister giving legal advice to the cabinet, amongst other responsibilities, and has the power to refer cases with unduly lenient sentences to the Court of Appeal for review. Only certain types of cases from certain courts are reviewable by the Attorney General, and these are cases which have a significant impact on public safety such as murder, rape, some serious fraud cases and some terror offences.

An example is the review of the sentence given to Joseph McCann. Over a period of 15 days in 2019, McCann kidnapped and sexually assaulted 7 victims, and sexually assaulted a further 4 victims. The victims included 3 children and an elderly lady, and McCann subjected the victims to degrading acts of the most serious nature. The trial judge found it difficult to see how it would ever be safe for McCann to be released, but following sentencing guidelines the judge sentenced McCann to 45 years imprisonment, anticipating release in around 30 years. The Attorney General referred the case to the Court of Appeal, who agreed the sentence was unduly lenient and increased the sentence to 60 years with a minimum term of 40 years, not determined by good behaviour but by the level of risk posed at that time by McCann, which means that McCann may never be released.

This article is from the free online

Introduction to the Rule of Law

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now