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(As of: 2007-05-04 – Archive.org)
The law of the United Kingdom consists of several independent legal systems which use common law principles, civil law principles, or both.
English law is a formal 'term of art' that describes the law for the time being in force in England and Wales. Although devolution has accorded some degree of political autonomy to Wales in the National Assembly for Wales, it does not have sovereign law-making powers, and the legal system administered through both civil and criminal courts remains unified.
Scots law is a unique system with ancient roots and has a basis in Roman law, combining features of both uncodified Civil law dating back to the Corpus Juris Civilis, and common law with medieval sources. Thus Scotland has a pluralistic legal system, comparable to that of Quebec, Louisiana, and South Africa.
Police forces are government organisations charged with the responsibility of maintaining law and order. The word comes from the French, and less directly from the Greek politeia, referring to government or administration; the word police was coined in France in the 18th century. The police may also be known as a constabulary, after constables, who were an early manifestation of police officers.
The United Kingdom has a number of similar but independent police services. Most of these operate in defined territorial areas (defined as Home Office police forces in England and Wales), which are typically counties, groups of counties, or larger metropolitan areas. The smallest geographical police force in the UK is the City of London force, which covers London's Square Mile. A small number of non-Home Office police forces also exist, such as the British Transport Police (BTP), the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC), and the Ministry of Defence Police (MoD Police), and have a more specialised, non-geographical remit.
MI5, officially called the Security Service, is a British counter-intelligence and security agency. Its remit covers the protection of British parliamentary democracy and economic interests, and fighting serious crime, militant separatism, terrorism, and espionage within the United Kingdom. It is mainly concerned with internal security, whilst the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) looks after external security.
The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), more commonly known as MI6 (originally Military Intelligence Section 6), or the Secret Service or simply Six, is the United Kingdom's external security agency. SIS is responsible for the United Kingdom's espionage activities overseas, as opposed to MI5 which is charged with internal security within the UK. The Republic of Ireland also falls within MI5's remit.The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is a British intelligence agency responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance. GCHQ provides the UK government and armed forces with signals intelligence as required under the guidance of the Joint Intelligence Committee in support of government policies. The Communications-Electronics Security Group (CESG) is the branch of GCHQ which works to secure the communications and information systems of government and critical parts of UK national infrastructure.