A pat on the back for Lord Justice Toulson, who has expressed the collective frustration of the academic and practicing (political and paramilitary?) wings of the legal world in relation to up-to-date legislation (in this decision). It drives me up the wall, and some of the areas I’m interested in are particularly badly served, with a range of new definitions from EU directives and the like. It has often taken me a couple of hours to get to the bottom of something that should really take no more than a few minutes. It’s great that the Statute Law database and OPSI areheading towards completion (and good things are happening in Canada, so it’s not impossible), but if you pick a new statute, there will probably be a further list of ‘unimplemented’ changes flagged with a warning (you have to then search for and put the changes together yourself).
Toulson LJ makes four points, which I paraphrase as follows:
- The majority of legislation is secondary legislation.
- The overall volume of legislation has increased and is still increasing.
- The legislation is spread across various statutes and statutory instruments.
- There is no straightforward way for an individual to find out what the law in force is.
The pay-databases are helpful, but to a point, and as is rightly pointed out by various commentators, this is something that should be available to the public. If a team of trained librarians and a bouquet of database subscriptions is necessary in order to figure out whether that section was modified by the fifth schedule to another Act, the words given a different meaning by s. 573(a) of the Regulation transposing the Directive (with reference to the nineteenth recital), disapplied in Wales by the Order-in-Council and the penalty increased by a further Act, is it really law at all?