English Legal System - Sources of Law Custom Equity and Treaties (Part 3)

Reform by Parliament

Law reform is mainly carried out by the Parliament in four (4) different ways
a) Repeal – of old or/and obsolete laws
b) Creation – completely new law or adapting existing legislation
c) Codification – if development has taken place in a form of large body of case law and statute, these may be codified into one
d) Consolidation – bringing together successive statutes which have been brought to remedy the problems arising out of statutes

The initial inspiration to consider the need to reform law may come from different sources – one particular source or combination of sources including:
a) Political parties – often to implement Government party’s manifesto
b) The Civil Service – different departments want to influence how to best achieve departmental goals
c) Treaty obligations – particularly the membership of the UK to the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights
d) Pressure groups – groups concerning particular areas of law such as Help the Aged charity, professional organisation Law Society or the JUSTICE pressure group
e) Media pressure and public opinion – there has been a number of very well published cases in the media raising a public outcry to bring changes to law such as the case of racially motivated killing of Stephen Lawrence and how such cases are investigated and the case of Sarah Payne and need to efficiently monitor paedophiles

As well as the groups mentioned above, there are a number of agencies which consider the need of law reform in areas referred to them by the Government or issues may be referred to them by the above mentioned groups.

The Law Commission

Consisting of five members drawn from the judiciary, legal profession and the legal academics with chairman usually being a High Court judge and rest of the members including QC with criminal experience, solicitor with land law and equity expertise and two academics working on projects referred by the Lord Chancellor, the Government Department or the Commission itself and operating under the Law Commission Act 1965 to :-

· Codify
· Remove anomalies
· Repeal obsolete legislation
· Consolidate
· Simplify and modernize the law

The Criminal Law Revision Committee

Considers law reform of the criminal law consisting of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), judges and academics

Royal Commissions

Comprising of a wide cross-section of people including expertise but mainly with no legal qualifications, and are set up to perform study in a particular areas of law result of which takes the form of final report detailing recommendations that the Government may act upon or not

Public inquiries

One-off, temporary committees set up by the Government to concentrate on a particular problem or incident causing social concern

Other temporary inquiries

Occasionally various Government departments set up temporary projects to investigate a specific area of law, such an example is the recent inquiry of the Civil Justice System by Lord Woolf

The law reforming agencies have criticised weaknesses in number of areas – lack of power, political difficulties, lack of influence on results, too much compromise, influence of the legal profession as well as lack of ministerial involvement
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