I've read in numerous blogs and heard from a few people that common law is more important than statute law in the UK, and that UK citizens can claim common law rights in some cases for their benefit.

  • According to one of the people I spoke with many moons ago, it requires opting out fully with the help of a legal professional; but that may have been their choice.

  • According to some blogs you can simply claim common law rights in a court.

However, I've not been able to find a trustworthy answer or explanation about what that would entail.

  • Can a UK citizen claim common law rights in a UK court?

  • If they can, would it change anything?

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    I don't understand what you mean by "common law right". Generally, if it's common law, it's the law, so you can claim it in court. That's pretty obvious, so you must mean something else, but what?
    – user6726
    Aug 2, 2017 at 14:30
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    "I've read in numerous blogs and heard from a few people...": can you provide some example sources? In common law countries like the UK, the law is a combination of statute and common. One is not "more important" than the other; in fact statute law (made by Parliament) can override common law (made by judges), while the converse is not true. Aug 2, 2017 at 14:40
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    This sounds akin to the Sovereign Citizen Movement, particularly the notion of "opting-out" of statute law.
    – owjburnham
    Aug 2, 2017 at 15:11
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    @owjburnham Meads v Meads from the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta.
    – Zizouz212
    Aug 9, 2017 at 3:05
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    @owjburnham yes or the Freemen on the Land movement, which is more widespread in the UK. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freemen_on_the_land
    – bdsl
    Sep 8, 2017 at 23:09

1 Answer 1


You are deeply confused, probably by the blogs of a conspiracy theorist (perhaps discussing the Sovereign Citizen Movement mentioned in the comments), whom it would be helpful for you to reference.

In fact, people with and without lawyers claim common law rights in the ordinary courts of the UK every day, in the lion's share of civil lawsuits. For example:

  • There is a common law right to sue for damages when someone breaches a contract by not paying a bill that they owe. A defendant, meanwhile, has a common law right to defend against such a suit on grounds, for example, that the debt has been paid or that the debt is not owed because there was no agreement to pay in the first place.

  • The substantive right of an owner of real property to evict a tenant who breaches a lease arises at common law, even though statutes spell out the process for enforcing that right. Furthermore, the way that ownership of real property is established (i.e. through a chain of title involving purchases by deeds) likewise arises at common law. The defendant meanwhile has a common law defense to a claim for rent for the remainder of the period in a lease after an eviction for failure of the landlord to mitigate damages if the landlord does not make a reasonable effort to find a new tenant.

  • The right to sue someone who negligently caused an accident that injured you is a common law right.

  • Thanks, it clears up some of my confusion. What I've heard and read is framed in the way that you can argue that a statute is invalid if it's at odds with a common law. From what your saying and prior knowledge, I understand that common law is part of law, not a separate thing, however I wonder how one would argue that a statute violates a common law right, when a statute has already been deemed acceptable. For example, if I appeared at a Petty Sessional Division Summons could I argue it with the magistrate directly? Would I need to appeal? Would I need to bring a separate case?
    – Dom
    Aug 2, 2017 at 18:10
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    @Dom A statute is never, ever invalid because it is at odds with common law. Common law is a gap filling body of law created by judges in the absence of contrary statutes, but statutes always prevail over contrary common law rules of law. This is a fundamental and unquestioned principle of the unwritten constitution of the U.K. sometimes called parliamentary supremacy. What you have been told about a statute being invalid if it's at odds with common law is hokum and a flat out lie. You should not trust anything that someone who says this claims to be true.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 2, 2017 at 22:51
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    @Dom it may also be that a statute was invalidated by a court for some reason(perhaps a conflict with some other statute) and the outcome of that case was described incorrectly as hinging on some common law right.
    – phoog
    Aug 3, 2017 at 0:51
  • @phoog: UK courts can't invalidate primary legislation. The most they can do is to point out that a statute is invalid, but only Parliament can make the change. One such example is if a statute is found to be in breach of the Human Rights Act; see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_incompatibility Aug 3, 2017 at 9:52
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    @phoog: according to that Wikipedia article, yes: "The courts must still apply the legislation as it is". Aug 3, 2017 at 13:10

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