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What is the Administration of Justice Act?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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An Administration of Justice Act is a common title used in the United Kingdom and other countries for laws that handle legal procedural. Often called a short title, designating a law as an Administration of Justice Act allows it to be easily categorized with similar legislation. There have been numerous laws with this title, primarily passed in England, Scotland, Canada, and North Ireland.

Administration of Justice Acts may handle a wide variety of legislative changes or additions, but must relate to justice proceedings in some way. Jurisdictional divisions, conditions for trials, sentencing, and court fees are some of the considerations generally controlled under such an act. Some may also guide procedural behavior during court cases, including the proper methods and forms of appeals, for instance.

Legal scholars argue that these acts are vital to the impartial functioning of any modern justice system. Without laws decreeing how legal procedure should work, much is left open to interpretation and even misuse. Codifying laws that govern the actions of claimants, courts, court officials, law officers, and attorneys creates a transparency in the system that allows for the redress of grievances. The existence of statutes, such as an Administration of Justice Act, is what creates the guidelines and reference book for a legal and justice system to function.

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Although there are many well known laws formed by an Administration of Justice Act, none is perhaps better known than the Administration of Justice Act of 1774. This act arose in the wake if riots throughout the North American colonies, and attempted to regain control over the quickly dissolving situations that would soon lead to open war. Though intended to ensure fair trials, the act quickly infuriated the restless colonists, who then used it as a primary reason for the Revolutionary War.

The Administration of Justice Act of 1774 allowed colonial governors to move the trials of royalist officers to Great Britain if they feared that the angry colonists would not give them a fair trial. The colonies rebelled, insisting that the act gave British officials free rein to commit offenses and then skip back to England penalty-free, since few colonists could afford to travel overseas to see justice done. Along with several other rules, this 1774 statute became known as the Intolerable Acts, and together formed the primary reasons given for permanent rebellion. The outrage over the Administration of Justice Act of 1774 helped play a major part in the formation of the United States' justice system. The right of individuals to a fair trial and due process of law became vital component in the new country's most dearly held principles.

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