A.V. Dicey was a writer in the late 1800's and he emphasised how important the Rule of Law is, and summarised it under three heads:
- No man could be punished or lawfully interfered with by the authorities except for breaches of law.
- No man is above the law, and everyone, regardless of rank, is subject to the ordinary laws of the land.
- The rights and freedoms of citizens are best protected under the common law.
The first and second heads insinuate that government should have restraints; they should not have discretionary powers and there should be legal controls over the governments activities. Thus no-one, not even government officials, are above the law. By controlling or restricting what the government can do, it is protecting citizens from a government who may use arbitrary power to gain what they want, rather than what is good for the country.
The third head is less relevant in today's society, what with the passing of the Human Rights Act 1998 which provides for individual human rights such as the right to a fair trial (Article 6), freedom from torture (Article 3) etc. Dicey's view came from his faith in the judiciary; before we had the HRA 1998 or any obligations under EU law to protect individual rights, it was our common law and case law which established and protected our human rights, e.g. presumption of innocence.