Law is the study of the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members. Oxford Reference provides more than 20,700 concise definitions and in-depth, specialist encyclopedic entries across this broad discipline. Our coverage comprises authoritative, accessible information on the major terms, concepts, processes, and organization of legal systems in the UK, US, and Australia—from criminal law, tax and social security law, and human rights law, to international law, family and employment law, and major debates in legal theory. Written by trusted experts for researchers at every level, entries are complemented by charts and chronologies wherever useful.

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Featured Author

John Wadham

John Wadham is the Executive Director of INTERIGHTS (the Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights). For five years he was General Counsel for the Equality and Human Rights Commission and for four years the Deputy Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Between 1995 and 2003 he was the Director of Liberty (the National Council for Civil Liberties). He also worked for several law centres in South London and in private practice. He is a solicitor and studied at the College of Law, Surrey University, and the London School of Economics. He a Visiting Fellow at Bristol University; a Visiting Lecturer: University of Auckland (New Zealand), and a Honorary Lecturer at the University of Leicester. He is a co-author of Blackstone’s Guide to the Human Rights Act (OUP), Blackstone’s Guide to the Freedom of Information Act (OUP), Blackstone’s Guide to the Equality Act (OUP), and many other articles and publications.

Author Q&A

What would you say is the most unusual or obscure term in your subject area?

'Declaration of incompatibility'—a declaration of incompatibility is a statement made by a court under the Human Rights Act that a statute (or part of a statute) is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

What do you think is the most commonly held misconception in your subject area?

That judges making decisions about whether or not a person’s human rights have been violated is somehow outside of their proper jurisdiction or contrary to the democratic process and that only Parliament is entitled to decide these matters.

Which figure in your subject’s history would you most like to invite to a dinner party? What would you ask him/her?

Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady to Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the United States 1933 to 1945. She became the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights and promoted and oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first modern human rights treaty. I would like to talk to her about her vision for human rights and hear her assessment of its successes (and failures).