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The Supreme Court and Precedent- Many recent decisions by the High Court have come under the spotlight of public scrutiny Questions have been raised over the Courts adherence to the Doctrine of Precedent and the Separation of Powers doctrine This paper will examine the theoretical and practical issues placed upon the High Court from the Precedent doctrine The Doctrine of Precedent requires that like cases be decided alike If a case now before the court has facts and raises issues similar to those of a previously decided case then the present case will be decided in the same way as the earlier one In this way the earlier case referred to as a precedent will have provided a legal basis on which the latter case and subsequent cases could be decided1 Generally lower courts are bound to follow the decisions of courts higher than them in the same hierarchy With the abolition of all avenues of appeals to the Privy Council the High Court is the most superior court in Australia2 The closely connected principle of stare decisis is defined as the policy of courts to stand by precedent and not to disturb a settled point3 In Australia there is still a need to maintain the use of the doctrine because it provides a level of cohesion and consistency in the law and society4 Many pundits believe that some of the recent decisions handed down by the High Court have departed from the Doctrine of Precedent this could not be further from the case In Mabo v Queensland5 the High Court merely exercised judicial creativity a power legitimately allocated to the judiciary which does not discard the Doctrine of Precedent Furthermore this may be
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