Study Notes

Codified Constitution

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

The official definition of a codified constitution is one in which key constitutional provisions are provided for within a single written document.

There are three key principles of a codified constitution.

  1. Authoritative - A constitution can be seen as a higher law than standard legislation. It sets out the rule by which the political institutions, including those who create the legislation
  2. Entrenched - A codified constitution is referred to as entrenched, meaning it is incredibly difficult to amend or abolish.
  3. Judiciable - As the constitution occupies a place in higher law, it allows other laws to be judged against it, as to whether or not they are constitutional or not. This function is performed by the judiciary.

As with any government model there are clear advantages and disadvantages. With a codified constitution the advantages are

  • Limited Government – The rules for government are established so it becomes clear when government oversteps the mark.
  • Protection of rights – Basic rights are enshrined in the constitution such as freedom of speech, meaning legislation cannot trample over these rights.
  • Clear rules for political procedure – Unlike the UK, a codified constitution allows for removal of precedent as a form of procedure. Things become far more clear-cut.

However, there are some disadvantages

  • Rigidity – codified constitutions are notoriously difficult to amend. The US Constitution has only had 27 amendments since 1787.
  • Judicial tyranny – A codified constitution, is interpreted by the judiciary and as such it can be the case that judges can ‘legislate from the bench’

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