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Law Reform

Law Reform

At one level law reform is either a product of parliamentary or judicial activity � Parliament tends,
however, to be concerned with particularities of law reform, and the judiciary are constitutionally and
practically disbarred from reforming the law in anything other than an opportunistic and piecemeal way.

(Slapper, G. and Kelly, D. (2011) The English Legal System (12th edn), Abingdon, Routledge, p. 153)

Explain the different processes by which uk law can be changed and discuss whether you agree or
disagree with the quotation.

You should give examples

This question, therefore, requires you to make plain or account for the ways in which law can be changed
in England. �Discuss� means �explain, then give two or more sides of the issue and any


The question requires you to consider the quotation and look at the two sides of the statement by
considering the arguments both in favour of and against the quotation.

Law Reform

As specified in the book “The English Legal System” by slapper and Kelly, (2011) the
process of reforming the law entails a rigorous process which according to the UK laws can only
be undertaken by either the parliament or the judiciary. As for the for the parliament, the process
of triggering reform is shaped by the need to refine specific clauses so as to make them more
applicable to the current national scenario or suit a certain bill passed by the same parliament. On
the other hand, the judiciary engages in reforms entailing making changes to the whole of the
constitution. The judiciary therefore has much more mandate over the reform process as
compared to the parliamentary process. Nonetheless, these two organs of the government
represent the legislature and thus they play the pertinent role of determining the course of law in
England. In order to foster the reform process, the government had to appoint a royal
commission to deal with issues arising from the implementation of the UK law. The Law
Commission operates as an independent body which is set by the parliament. This is done in
adherence to the Law Commissions Act enacted in 1965. The act was passed so as to watch over
the law and ensure that any reform made to the law is made after a rigorous review and analysis
so as to foster the improvement of the lives of the citizens of England.
The commission is made up of a judge from the court of appeal, who is supported by four
other commissioners. The main function of the commission is to look to it that it approves
reforms that make the law much simpler, fairer, more accessible, cost effective and above all
modern. In order to undertake this duty effectively, the members of the commission consult
widely and where possible they seek public consultations so as to be accurate in their reporting to
the parliament of UK regarding the much needed reforms in order of priority. It is only after the
recommendations that the UK parliament can go ahead with the reform process. An example


where the procedure for implementing reforms was practice was back in 1832 when the
government requested the commission to seek information and collect statistics on the working
of a law aimed at alleviating poverty in the UK. The Poor Law as it was known made a
suggestion to the parliament to reform the law by bringing the control of the countries funds to a
central location in London and secondly, it was mandated that the reforms had to be made in
such a way that they prevented unnecessary expenditures of public funds so as to direct them
towards funding public projects.
These recommendations were published in a report stating the need for reform in the year
1834 after which it was handed to the parliament. The parliament supported the need for reform
thus they had to consider the recommendations made by the commission regarding the problems
identified in the Poor Law. The recommendations encompassed in the commission’s report were
reasonable to the extent that they would reduce government expenditure to the minimum level
possible while simultaneously minimizing the cost of implementation. The parliament has to
make the Poor Law Amendment Act in the shortest time possible while making legislations to
guide the reform process at the parliament level. The parliament had an easier time adopting the
main recommendations made by the commission. A relevant commission by the name the Poor
Law Commission had to be set up and located at a strategic location in London. Inspectors were
employed to supervise the working of the officials while authority was transferred to 600
parishes in the country so as to facilitate devolution. The parishes were referred to as the board of
guardians who were given workhouses to facilitate their functioning. The decision to use the
locally elected guardians was to reduce on the cost of setting up formal administrative systems.
The new Poor Law was amended in that the outdoor relief aid which was given to the
able bodied people was scrapped off with the aim of triggering the able bodied and physically


endowed people into searching for work. On the same note, the reforms protected the less
privileged especially the elderly and the sick. More relief was reserved for the people who could
prove that they were undergoing a cruel and harsh life and as a result, they needed outdoor relief.
The reformation of the Poor Act was based on a pioneering Act where the government had
sought to provide a central point where the poor people could be issued with relief food and
other basic necessities but as reality dawned in, the government found it burdensome to maintain
the increasing number of poor people in UK thus the need for reform was called for. The need
for reform was further supported by social commentators who noticed that the able people in the
society were becoming dependent on relief at the expense of seeking for employment
opportunities and fending for themselves.
By so doing the government became obligated to fulfilling the needs of the people facing
genuine economic hardships. In spite of this, there are conservative people who still opposed the
reforms by claiming that the government had overlooked some classes of the society that were in
dire need of relief was being shadowed by the government. On the brighter side, the impact of
the reforms are still felt today as the UK has managed to flourish and improve the economic
conditions of its citizens. Today the law has standardized the lives of many people by boosting
the unemployed, the sick and the elderly. The argument in favor of the reform therefore stands
out as being dominant because it shaped the government expenditures and diverted the revenue
saved from providing relief aids towards the common good of all the citizens. This is one reason
why UK now enjoys a good system of infrastructure courtesy of the priorities for posterity
implemented through the decision by the parliament to make reforms on the Poor Act (Slapper &
Kelly, 2011).


The second and a more modernistic application of the legislative reforms in the UK has
been the pressure mounted on the parliament to change the English Libel Laws. These laws are
not only applied in the UK but all the other Commonwealth countries. The United States and the
Republic of Ireland also use these laws but they are historically related to the English
Defamation Acts. The act became law under obscure circumstances after a surge in civil cases
relating to defamation in the years between 1272 and 1307. The applicability of the law was
further clouded by the fact that defamatory remarks could pass for lack of evidence. The
defamation law was reinstated under the statute of Westminster in the year 1275. After the
Westminster Status, the defamation act became the Libel Law and was enacted under the English
Common Law. Currently, the libel law is applicable to any case of defamatory remarks against a
person who is taken to the High Court. The evidence for such law suits require that the accuser
has to use written or published statement alleging for defamation. The law can be filed under the
circumstance that the damage caused on the accuser caused an economical or professional loss.
Or that the defamation caused the accuser to lose respect or made the public to think worse about
A person seeking legal redress under the Libel Law has to base the defamation remarks
on an allegation. This has been common among people practicing journalism and newspaper
editors who have come under the wrath of politicians for claims of defamation. The Libel Law
also gives companies the privilege of suing people who make defamatory remarks because the
English Laws allow companies to stand alone as natural persons. Among the cases that have
been brought to book under the Libel Law include the 1894 case law on South Hetton Coal Co.
Ltd. v. North Eastern News Ass’n Ltd. as well as the Bognor Regis U.D.C. v. Campion case law
in the year 1972 (Delaney, 2014). The most recent case between Keith-Smith v Williams [2006]


have necessitated reforms to this law because of the passage of time. With the advancement of
Information Technology which has seen the rise of social networking sites and increased
involvement of the media in reporting social issues, the need for change is unavoidable.
Many other factors have led to the public call for reformation of the Libel Law. For
example people have brought up debates both in favor and against the amendment of the libel
law. Reflecting on the commentary made by the citizens in dire need for reforms, it was argued
that the libel laws have become oppressive in the sense that they are being misused by the rich
who find leeway to impeach and extort unsuspecting journalists. The rich have succeeded in
manipulating the legislative organs of the government in UK and this is one instance when the
law has been challenged for reforms. The need for reform is therefore driven by the need for
advancement of the common good principle where the general public will be at liberty to express
their views and expose malice among all the members of the society without the fear of being
taken to court for defamation (Delaney, 2014). By so doing, it is evident that the libel law needs
reform because it has become an impediment to the advancement of the freedom of speech. In
another case, the citizens of UK in favor of the reforms have seconded the fact that the libel laws
are oppressing people by silencing vital organs of communication such as human rights activists,
journalists, writers and users of social networking sites.
There has been a universal call for reforms among all the countries using the libel laws as
they have been termed as being antiquated and overdue. The public has been pushing for a
defamation bill by the parliament so as to start a reform process for the libel law. Apparently, all
the publics are campaigning for a reformation of the libel law. The only people against the
reform might be the rich and corrupt politicians in the UK who are using the loopholes in the law
to exploit other citizens. This is because these figure heads enjoy protectionism from the high


index of censorship provided to them by the law which makes them immune to remarks that
appear to be defaming their professional reputations (Delaney, 2014). The ability for the law to
create a super injunction upon which the freedom of expression can be compromised has been
enjoyed by a few members of the society thus the call for change led to the reforms in April

  1. The Defamation Act was therefore enacted in 2013 and thus it is required that the plaintiffs
    face the court of England and convince it that the libel laws are irrelevant and that the court is the
    most appropriate place to enforce the reform process. The claimants are further required by the
    court of England to show that the citizens of UK have suffered serious harm and economic loss
    regarding the miss appropriation of the Libel Law. The defenses of justice have seen to it that the
    Libel Law comes under scrutiny by the court system in UK. The court was able to prove that the
    law needs reform because it is outdated.
    By so doing, a process of reform has been forwarded to the judiciary which is required to
    amend the act and make it available for public review before it is included in the constitution of
    the UK. This is the second example demonstrating the ability for the public to enforce the reform
    process by use of the court system. This is opposed to the first process where a commission is
    used to table a report requesting the parliament to make reforms of subtle laws that affect the
    society. The second case is different because the libel law favors the rich and the powerful thus
    the affected members of the public have to petition and seek for the help of human rights and
    civil rights activists and follow legal redress as the only possible avenue for instigating reforms
    (Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, 2011). In such a circumstance, it is only the court
    that can call for the review of the antiquated law thus it was necessary for the Defamation Act
    2013 to pass through the UK parliament so as to pass through a reform process that will lead to


the enactment of a new law reflecting the change of time and the need for freedoms of speech
and expression.
The third process of change that has been used to call for reforms in the UK is purely
judicial. This is to mean that the judiciary can be mandated to overhaul the constitution of the
whole country as it has been exhibited with the government appointed in 1997. The government
which is in its third term of office has been vigilant on enforcing constitutional reforms in subtle
areas so as to better the lives of the common citizens in the UK. Among the areas that have been
called for reform have revolved around the need for devolution, human rights and the House of
Lords. Specifically, the reforms in the House of Lords were initiated by doing away with the
voting among the hereditary peers (Lacy, 2013). By abolishing the voting rights which were
previously enjoyed by hereditary peers and sparing 92 peers to help in reforming the House fully,
the UK government is bound to succeed. For example in 2008, the government facilitated
reforms in the House of Lords by setting a workable action plan for 80 peers elected to represent
the second chamber. The House of Lords Information Office circulated a briefing paper printed
with reform proposals which consequently led to the reduction of the members of the House of
Lords. Personally, the action has been supported by the fact that the public expenditure incurred
in maintaining the House of Lords can be diverted to other economic projects which will boost
productivity of other sectors such as agriculture.
The second reform that was necessitated by the constitution under the leadership of the
judiciary was the Human Rights Act [1998]. The act was incorporated into the UK laws as part
of guaranteeing the freedom of Human Rights Activists. The reformation of the act was assured
by the European Convention on Human Rights of which UK has been a member and a signatory
since 1951. The first endorsement of the Human Rights Act had been made by the government in


1951 but it was not incorporated into the domestic laws of UK thus the Ministry of Justice found
it prudent to push for reforms as one way of fostering justice for the people involved in seeking
redress against violation of human rights (Lacy, 2013). The third constitutional reform is still
underway but the government through the judiciary is pushing for the introduction of the Bill of
Rights. This is according to the 2009 publication in the Green paper where the government
stipulated Rights and Responsibilities for developing a constitutional framework that will favour
all citizens. This is a long and rigorous process towards addressing the issues of devolution
which have been embedded in the legislative system in the UK. This has obscured the
administration of justice by the courts because they legal system is basically dependent on these
laws while making rulings. The constitutional reforms have been widely supported by different
NGO’s which implies that the reforms are timely in addressing the social, economic and social
issues faced by most of the UK citizens thus the reforms are aimed at strengthening devolution
which will better the lives of all citizens.


Delaney, E. F. 2014. Judiciary rising: Constitutional change in the United Kingdom.
Northwestern University Law

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