Two Different Worlds: The English Legal System vs. African and Asian Legal Systems

The English Legal System is a common law system that seeks to be rigid and consistent.  Through the likes of precedent and statute law, this is generally achieved. 

Asian and African Legal Systems follow a pluralistic ideology that look to incorporate natural law, customary law and state law. The ideology is that if these three legal theories are incorporated into the legal system, then pluralism and a strong stable state will be achieved.

For example, in Namibia, deep legal pluralism is achieved, as state law co-exists with other non-state laws. This can be illustrated by looking at their method of dispute settlement. Rather than going through the Court, as would be the case in England, there is restoration of peace at a local level through an act of “wiping of the tears”. This is a form of compensation between two parties who settle the dispute between them. Nevertheless, some commercial cases cannot be dealt with in the customary way and so must be dealt with by the state. Thus, we see how state laws co-exist with non-state laws in order to achieve a stable state.

Another example is the Thai Legal System which has a mix of a Supreme Administrative Court, the Monarchy and Buddhism influencing their legal system thus incorporating state law, customary law and natural law.  For example, despite having a Supreme Administrative Courtin place, it is in Thai consciousness to believe the King is at the very pinnacle of society and thus he can use this unquestioned authority to intervene on the political stage in times of crisis or controversy with immediate impact. This would clearly differ from England if the Queen wished to intervene on the political stage. 

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Dion McCarthy, Trainee Solicitor

dmccarthy@astonbond.co.uk