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News & Media
The news media are there to report events. However, they can exercise considerable
influence on legislation too. TV and radio stations are required by law to maintain a political
balance in their broadcasting but there is no such restriction on newspapers. The print media
can take strong positions on particular legislative proposals. Politicians depend on the media
for their public image, and do not want to act in a way that may set the media against them.
Can you think of any politicians who have tarnished their public image?
Example: It was a series of news reports and articles calling for action that led to the passing
of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and more recently the Sex Offenders Act 1997. In neither
case was the risk to members of the public any greater than it had been for many years
previously but the government in each case could not afford to ignore an expression of
public concern whipped up by the media and felt compelled to take action.
The Law Commission was set up in 1965. It is an independent body made up of five
experienced and qualified lawyers. The independent body was set up to consider areas of law
which need reform. The Government may specifically ask the Law Commission to look at
certain areas of law, or they may select areas to research themselves. The Law Commission
will look at the law and produce a report for the Government. They research the area of law
that has been identified and then produce a consultation paper to give to the government.
This will outline the possible reforms and improvements. Following on from this consultation
period the Law Commission will then draw up actual proposals for reform and present them
in a report. The Law Commission may attach a Bill with the report. This sets out exactly how
the new law should be. The bill will then be presented to parliament and may become law
(providing it passes the necessary stages in Parliament). The Law Commission can also
change whole areas of law and identify old laws which are no longer used.
It is clear that they Law Commission has a direct influence on parliament as a law maker.
They identify areas of law which need to be improved, modernised, repealed and changed,
and then they will tell the Government.
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An example of how the Law Commission influences laws passed in this country is the Fraud
Act 2006. This piece of legislation simplified the law on deception. The Law Commission
researched the area of law and found it to be difficult and complicated. They therefore
produced a draft bill for the Government to present to parliament. This draft bill passed
through Parliament and eventually became the Fraud Act 2006. This act of Parliament is now
much more straight forward and more complicated.…read more
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Example: the Anti-Poll Tax Federation existed for only a few years. These types of groups
tend to campaign until they achieve ultimate success or obvious failure.
Some pressure groups are small, but some are actually larger than most political parties.
Example: In 2001-2002 the Conservative Party had about 320,000 members, the Labour
Party about 300,000, and the Liberal Democrats about 75,000. In comparison, Amnesty
International had some 150,000 members in the UK.…read more
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Human Rights Act 1998 said that it should be up to the state to justify the
continuing detention of a patient. The courts made a declaration that the law was not
compatible with the human rights act and the law was changed so the law was compatible.…read more