1 What is a Constitution?
2 Explain the difference between a Codified and an Uncodified Constitution
3 State the Advantages of an Uncodified Constitution
1.)A constitution is what sets the guidelines for a country. It lays out who has power, what peoples rights are, and generally what sort of system the country will be run under. The basic concept of the modern constitution which is used today was originally based on the idea of John Locke that the country should be governed under rules and guidelines mutually agreed by the powers and the people. This is under scrutiny by the public, who asses it, and thus remains modern.
2.)A codified constitution simply means one which is written. However, usually, the term refers to a codified constitution as one which is written in a single, and organised form. The rules and boundaries set by a codified constitution, usually are different form ones in an uncodified constitution which may rely on laws of manner & conduct.
A prime example of a codified constitution would be in the United States of America. In America, they have all that constitutes their country written in one form. There is probably not a single person in the U.S who does not know his/her rights. This is because the human rights in America are written in a so called “Bill of Rights”, for all to see. An advantage of this, is that it is easy to avoid certain mi-understandings over legitimacy (in some cases) by having something to quote. Say a person is involved in a robbery, and ends up in court facing a possible fine and/or jail sentence. This person has the right to not incriminate him/her – self in the Bill of Rights. This is the 5th Amendment.
If asked anything which may incriminate the suspect, there is a route of avoidance by simply stating “I Plead the 5th”.
An uncodified constitution is one which is not specifically written, or written in a continuous, organised form, and generally the opposite of a codified constitution. Although strictly, the term uncodified means “not written”, many societies which are based on an uncodified constitution actually have it in written form. This is because of laws. These laws, normally withhold all that makes up a codified constitution. A Prime example of a country governed by an uncodified constitution would be the United Kingdom.
In the UK, our laws constitute our constitution. They are what holds society in its current form. Sadly, even though there are human rights in Britain as there are in America, we do not have a so called “Bill of Rights” to refer to. And generally, the majority of the British public do not know their rights.
3.)One advantage of an uncodified constitution is that of its ease to alter. As our constitution is mainly made up of laws, all that is needed to change it is the change in the specific law which administrates the subject under analysis.
All that is needed to change a law is for it to pass through parliament. Rarely, a law would be passed through the public via a referendum, which may take longer than if it was simply MPs making the decisions.
Another advantage which ties in with the ease to alter is the modernisation of the constitution and the society which it rules. As it is easy to alter an uncodified constitution, it is therefore easy to keep it modern, as laws which constitute the country become dated in such a way as to negatively affect the people, it can be changed to better suit the current situation of the nation.
Also, in favour of an uncodified constitution is the fact that “common law” exists. This simply, is where in previous cases, judges have ruled that certain rules of conduct are so firmly rooted in the “commonly held” traditions of the political system that they have the force of law. But statues are superior to common law, so that, if there is a conflict tbetween statute and law and common law, the former must always prevail.
However, when statutes are bit clear, or when it is not apparent whether a minister of public body is acting lawfully, judges may refer to such common law principals, based on similar disputes in the past.
In a system which has a codified constitution i.e. The U.S.A., it takes a long time to update the constitution and make it more modern. It is also very difficult, if impossible, to update at all. It has taken many years for the development for America to even have a constitution, as originally, “British America” was run, constituted and basically owned by England, more specifically, the King (George 3rd at the time). And America then, had little or no legitimate, or executive powers or independency. Eventually, they worked their way to an organised, codified constitution. But, although it works for America, it is still viewed to be a weaker, and possibly inferior to an uncodified system such as ours.