3.3 Rights and responsibilities

In this theme students will look at the nature of laws and the principles upon which laws are based, how the citizen engages with legal processes, how the justice system operates in the UK, how laws have developed over time and how society deals with criminality. Students will consider also how rights are protected, the nature of universal human rights and how the UK participates in international treaties and agreements. This theme also considers how the citizen can both play a part and bring about change within the legal system.

What laws does a society require and why?

  • The fundamental principles of law to ensure rights and freedoms, the presumption of innocence and equality before the law.
  • The nature of rules and laws in helping society to deal with complex problems of fairness, justice and discrimination.
  • Rights in local to global situations where there is conflict and where rights and responsibilities need to be balanced.
  • The operation of the justice system:
    • the role and powers of the police
    • the role and powers of the judiciary
    • the roles of legal representatives
    • how the different criminal and civil courts work
    • tribunals and other means of dispute resolution.
  • Rights and legal entitlements of citizens at differing ages: the age of criminal responsibility and other legal ages when young people become legally responsible for their actions (drive, marry, vote, join the forces).
  • How civil law differs from criminal law.
  • How the legal systems differ within the UK:
    • England and Wales
    • Northern Ireland
    • Scotland.

How has the law developed over time, and how does the law protect the citizen and deal with criminals?

  • How citizens' rights have changed and developed over time, from the importance of Magna Carta (1215) to today and the Human Rights Act (1998).
  • Common law, legislation and how they differ.
  • The right to representation; the role and history of trade unions in supporting and representing workers; the role of employers’ associations.
  • The nature of criminality in the UK today:
    • differing types of crimes
    • profile of criminality in the UK
    • factors affecting crime rates in society and strategies to reduce crime.
  • How we deal with those who commit crime:
    • differing forms of punishment available in the UK
    • the purposes of sentencing
    • the effectiveness of differing types of sentence
    • how the youth justice system operates.

What are the universal human rights and how do we protect them?

  • The importance of key international agreement and treaties in regard to human rights:
    • the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights
    • the European Convention on Human Rights
    • the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
    • the Human Rights Act (1998).
  • The role of international law in conflict situations:
    • to protect victims of conflict
    • how international humanitarian law helps establish the rules of war.
  • Students through their study, research, investigations or interaction with members of the community should understand the roles undertaken by citizens within the legal system and how the role of the citizen has been seen to be pivotal to our justice system. Students should understand the responsibilities and roles of citizens in the legal system; as a juror, witness, a victim of crime, magistrate, special constable, police commissioner or member of a tribunal hearing.
  • The roles played by pressure and interest groups, trade unions, charities and voluntary groups, public institutions and public services in providing a voice and support for different groups in society campaigning to bring about a legal change or to fight an injustice.
  • Students should be aware of the different forms of democratic and citizenship actions people can take to bring about change and hold those in positions of power to account in regard to issues relating to human rights and the justice system: joining an interest group; campaigning; advocacy; lobbying; petitions; joining a demonstration; volunteering.

Citizenship processes, skills and methods

Each of the questions that frame the subject content for this section helps establish a question or hypothesis. This will enable students to develop the citizenship skills, processes and methods listed in this specification. Many of the skills, processes and methods listed can also be developed through the use of a case study approach.