Law

LawLaw 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 34,000 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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                    A Dictionary of Law    The Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History   A Dictionary of Forensic Science   Australian Law Dictionary


See all the Law books available on Oxford Reference >

Sample resources

Discover Law on Oxford Reference with the below sample content:

Quotations about crime, justice, and lawyers from Oxford Essential Quotations

A list of commonly used legal abbreviations and acronyms from A Dictionary of Law Enforcement

Declaration of incompatibility’ defined in A Dictionary of Law

Overview of the Federal Court of Australia from The Oxford Companion to the High Court of Australia

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Featured Author

Graham Gooch

Graham Gooch

Graham Gooch served in the police service for 30 years, mainly as a detective. Following this he became Principal Lecturer in Policing and Criminal Investigation at the University of Central Lancashire. Since leaving the university he was elected as a member of Lancashire County Council, and for a time was a member of the Lancashire Combined Fire Authority and the Curriculum Advisory Group at the General Medical Council. It was during his time at the university that he was, with colleague Michael Williams, commissioned by OUP to write A Dictionary of Law Enforcement. The first edition was published in 2007 and the second edition in 2014.

Author Q&A

In your opinion, which is the most fascinating entry in your dictionary and why?

The most fascinating entries are those which include the word ‘reasonable’. The courts have often struggled with the concept as what is reasonable to one party in a dispute is unreasonable to the other party. In the famous case of Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation [1948] 1KB 223 (CA) the court managed to come up with a definition of unreasonable.

When we look at ‘reasonable’, not in the context of public bodies but in the actions of individuals the views on reasonableness are very wide. What is 'reasonable force' has been argued frequently on a case by case basis. What is a ‘reasonable person’ is clearly open to debate. Perhaps the most glaring arguments arise from the divorce cases regarding what is a ‘reasonable financial provision’. Needing vast amounts of maintenance because Kensington is the only place in which the claimant can reasonably live, may seem reasonable to the claimant, but perhaps not the 'reasonable person’ - the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’.

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

Idiopathic. The dictionary is inter alia, intended to assist investigators and others in understanding reports received from doctors, pathologists, and forensic anthropologists. The word crops up in reports on describing conditions and diseases. A forensic anthropologist examining skeletal remains may describe the condition of DISH, (Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis). The investigator wants to know is ‘what caused it’ - ‘idiopathic' means ‘I don’t know’.

What is the one term or concept that everyone—from students to everyday web users—should be familiar with? Why?

Natural justice, and police officers should implement this using the ‘discretion’ they have on how and when to take legal action. If laws are automatically enforced and any attempt is made to fetter the discretion of constables, policing with consent will be threatened and the police seen as an arm of the state. As Churchill said 'All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope'.

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