03 January 2009

Hidden Laws

Chambers, R. v [2008] EWCA Crim 2467


"64 This case also provides an example of a wider problem. It is a maxim that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but it is profoundly unsatisfactory if the law itself is not practically accessible. To a worryingly large extent, statutory law is not practically accessible today, even to the courts whose constitutional duty it is to interpret and enforce it. There are four principal reasons.

65 First, the majority of legislation is secondary legislation.

66 Secondly, the volume of legislation has increased very greatly over the last 40 years. The Law Commission's Report on Post-Legislative Scrutiny, (2006) Law Com 302, gave some figures in Appendix C. In 2005 there were 2868 pages of new Public General Acts and approximately 13,000 pages of new Statutory Instruments, making a total well in excess of 15,000 pages (which is equivalent to over 300 pages a week) excluding European Directives and European Regulations, which were responsible for over 5,000 additional pages of legislation.

67 Thirdly, on many subjects the legislation cannot be found in a single place, but in a patchwork of primary and secondary legislation.

68 Fourthly, there is no comprehensive statute law database with hyperlinks which would enable an intelligent person, by using a search engine, to find out all the legislation on a particular topic. This means that the courts are in many cases unable to discover what the law is, or was at the date with which the court is concerned, and are entirely dependent on the parties for being able to inform them what were the relevant statutory provisions which the court has to apply."

Update 12thFeb 2009 Geek Lawyer has just blogged about the case.

Plundering from Geek lawyer's comments section, this is very useful - "First geek point, the search facilities on both OPSI and the SLD are hopeless, and the easiest way I know of to check for amendments to an SI is to use a Google search on site:www.opsi.gov.uk for the name of the regulations as a phrase, together with ‘amend*’ as a separate word." Courtesy of Jonathan Mitchell

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