Law. Law Reform

Cards for Law Reform


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Influences on Law Reform

Important to keep law under review and make sure its reformed when necessary.

Can come from:


At opening of each session of Parliament government annouces plans for new law in the Queens Speech.

Written by Prime Minister and senior ministers.

However, problem of the amount of time available in Parliament. A lot of time must go to budgets and foreign policy etc so little time left for law reforms.


Judges may have to create new point of law. Tort of negligence was created by judges. Judges have also created new offences in criminal law eg marital **** in case of R v R. HoL can use Practice Statement to alter law.

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Influences on Law Reform


Where there is strong public opinion about change in law, government may bow to such opinion. More likely to happen towards end of government term as general election is soon and Government will want to remain popular.


Media plays big role in bringing public opinion to Governemts attention.

Can be seen as media manipulating the news and creating public opinion.

Specific events may play role in formulating new law eg Attack on Twin Towers led to Anti Terrorism, Crime and Security Act.


Example of Governemt bowing to public opinion and efforts of pressure groups was passing of the Hunting Act 2004 which banned hunting foxes with dogs.

Also ocasions where 2 pressure groups have conflicting interests. Seen when ban agaisnt fox hunting being considered. League against Cruel Sports want to ban it but Vontryside Alliance wanted it to continue.

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Influences on Law Reform


Some pressure groups try to persuade individual MP's. If pressure group successful it may persuade MP to ask questions in Parliament about the problem. 

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The need for independent law reform body

Problem with methods of law reform above is that they dont look at the law as a whole.

Government has political adgenda where they will want certain policies eg education etc. Governments are less interested in "pure" law reform.

Judges can only deal with question of law in the case they are trying.

Public opinion is not always based on accurate info. Topics that arouse public interest are not going to include the need to reform technical areas of law.

Pressure groups are concerned with specific and quite narrow issues.

It is therefore clear there needs to be an agency to consider reform on a wider way. For this reason Law Commission was created.

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The Law Commission

Set up in 1965 by Law Commissions Act.

Full tome body consists of Chairman who is a High Court judge and 4 other members. Also support staff to assist with research and draftsmen who help with drafting.

Commissiobn consider areas of law which are believed to be in need of reform.

Role of Law Commission set out in Section 3 of Law Commissions Act:

  • Systematically develop and reform law
  • Simplify and modernise law
  • Codify law
  • Eliminate anomalies
  • Repeal obsolete and unnecessary enactments
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The way in which the Law Commissions work

Topics may be referred to it by Lord Chancellor on behalf of government or it may itself select areas in need of reform and seek government approval to draft report on them.

Law Commission researches area of law. It publishes consultation paper seeking views on possible reform.

Consultation paper will describe current law, the problems with it and look at options for reform.

Following response to consultation paper, Commission will draw up proposals for reform. This will be presented in a report which will set out research that led to the conclusions.

Often will be a draft Bill attached to report. Draft Bill must of course go through Parliamentary stages to become law.

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Repeal and Consolidation


Lots very old, odd statutes that have long ceased to have any relevance. 

In order to remove out of date statues, Law Commission prepares a Statute Law (Repeals) Bill for Parliament to pass. Through this, more than 200 out of date Acts have been repealed. Tidying up of statute book helps make law more accessible.


Needed because in some areas of law there are several statutes, each of which sets out small part of total law. Aim of consolidation is to bring all existing provisions together in 1 Act.

Makes law more accessible.

Law Commission produce about 5 consolidation Bills a year. Though perhaps true to say that as fast as 1 area is consolidated another area is being fragmeneted by further Acts. 

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Codification involves bringing together all law on 1 topic into 1 source.

Codification was specifically referenced to in section 3 of Law Commissions Act as part of Law Commissions role.

When Law Commission first formed, had ambitious programme of codification of family law, contract law and other areas. However, have gradually abandoned this in favour of what could be termed as "building block" approach. Under this it has concentrated on codifying small sections of law that can be added to later.

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Effectiveness of Law Commission

First 10 years had high success rate. 85% of proposals being made law.

Next 10 years dropped to 50%. Lack of success due to Parliamentary time and apparent disinterest by Parliament in technical law reform.

Rate hit all time low in 1990 when not 1 proposal was made law.

Since then matters have improved. Examples of proposals made law are:

Fraud Act 2006 which reformed law on fraud and deception offences

Contract (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 which recognised person could have rights under contract even though they were not a party to contract.

Many reports still awaiting implementation.



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Effectiveness of Law Commission


Reform of criminal law has been slower than other areas. 

Orignally Law Commission hoped to create criminal code which wuld cover large areas of criminal law. Produced a draft Code in 1985 and full Code in 1989. Because Code so large, obvious Parliament would not have time to deal with whole of it at once.

Law Commission have since published reports suggesting reform on parts of criminal law.

Other areas have either not been accepted by Government or have not yet been made law. Shows how slow Parliament can be over taking action on Law Commissions proposals. 

Law Commission can only be effective is Government and Parliament find time to enact reforms.

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Other reform agencies


For some aspects of legal system, Government will set up a Royal Commission (temporary) to investigate and report.

People with expertise in area are consulted on the law.

Once they have report, its job is done and they disbanded.

Some Royal Commissions have led to important changes eg Royal Commission on Police Powers (the Phillips Commission) reported in 1981 and many recommendations were put into effect by Police and Criminal Evidence Act.


Individual judge may be asked to lead investigation into technical areas of law and make proposals for reform.

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Other reform agencies


As well as judges, Government has recently started asking business people to review workings of some areas of the justice system.

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