chapter  4
11 Pages

The common law and equality

ByMichael Connolly

This chapter scrutinises the common law's predisposition to address matters of equality. Lord Hoffman hinted that there exists an equality principle in the common law of a more substantive nature. The history of the common law and equality is detached from the espoused common law principles of morality. Notions that the common law would ever develop substantial anti-discrimination principles are far from the reality, seen in the case-law reasoning and decisions. A brief history of the English common law shows a laissez-faire approach to racial and religious discrimination, the active disabling of women from participation in civil affairs, and manifest hostility towards homosexuality. The Interpretation Act 1850, section 4, stated: In all Acts, words importing the masculine gender shall be deemed and taken to include females, and the singular to include the plural, and the plural the singular, unless the contrary as to gender or number is expressly provided.