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LRC takes over scrutiny of obsolete laws
Solicitor Fiona Carroll is project manager for Law Reform Commission’s Statute Law Revision Project

19 Mar 2020 / LRC Print

LRC takes over scrutiny of obsolete laws

The Law Reform Commission (LRC), with the support of the Office of the Attorney General, has now assumed responsibility for the Statute Law Revision Programme (SLRP).

This was initiated to provide clarity for users of statute law.

The SLRP will complete the work on all pre-1922 statutory instruments by 2022, to coincide with the centenary of the State.

Instruments

When the State was founded, it inherited tens of thousands of pre-1922 legislation, both acts and statutory instruments.

Much of this law was obsolete but remained officially in force, and the SLRP was initiated.

Between 2005 and 2016, the SLRP has been responsible for the research and drafting of six comprehensive Statute Law Revision Acts, as part the State’s responsibility to repeal and revoke this obsolete legislation.

This has resulted in the repeal of the vast majority of the pre-1922 Acts, and has left a definitive list (now) of just over 1,000 pre-1922 Acts retained in force.

In relation to statutory instruments, the SLRP examined pre-1922 instruments up to and including 1820.

Relevant 

The Statute Law Revision Act 2015 formally revoked many thousands of these and retained in force just 43 that remain relevant.

The current SLRP project picks up from the 1821 timeline, and involves the examination of thousands more instruments covering the period from 1 January 1821 right through to 1922.

Fiona Carroll, BA (Mod), LLB, solicitor, is the project manager for the Law Reform Commission’s Statute Law Revision Project.

Clarity

Completing the pre-1922 SLRP will provide a level of clarity for secondary legislation similar to that already achieved for primary legislation in previous Statute Law Revision Acts.

The SLRP has already delivered a definitive list of pre-1922 Acts that remain in force, nearly all of which are available online on the electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB).

The LRC goal is that all secondary legislation identified in the remaining stages of the SLRP that are suitable to be retained in force should be digitised, and made available to the eISB.

Accessible

The State will then have a complete list of all in-force legislation, both primary and secondary, in Ireland, and it will be accessible online. This will reinforce the status of the eISB as the principal online repository of legislation in the State.

In the Law Reform Commission’s current SLRP work, layers of history are being slowly peeled away to reveal snapshots of life and society as it was in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a spokeswoman said.

Proclamations for apprehending murderers and arsonists abound, clearly obsolete but still, technically, on the statute book and need to be swept away.

Other instruments likely to be revoked, but of clear significance in our legal and political history, include the instruments made under the Lighting of Towns (Ireland) Act 1828.

Urban bodies

These put in place a new framework for local government throughout Ireland, from Skibbereen to Ballymahon, allowing urban bodies to elect bodies of commissioners to make local decisions.

The Commission has also identified some instruments that are still in force and will be retained, but the Commission is unlikely to recommend the retention of a proclamation dating from the 1840s preventing the sale of wine, chocolate or coffee on Sundays.

Meanwhile, the Law Reform Commission’s online Classified List of In-Force Legislation went live in January this year and is available on the Commission’s website here.

It is fully searchable and linked to full text on the eISB.

Solicitor Alma Clissmann, (pictured) BA (Mod), LLB, Dip Eur Law (Bruges), is the Access to Legislation Manager with the Law Reform Commission.

Alma ClissmannAlma manages the Commission’s Revised Acts programme, as well as its Classified List of In-Force Legislation.

Features 

Key features of the list include:

  • A searchable list of over 2,000 in-force Acts and over 15,000 statutory instruments organised under 36 subject headings or titles,
  • The 36 subject headings or titles include: Business Regulation, Commercial Law, Criminal Law, Environment, Family Law, Health and Health Services, Land Law, Oireachtas (National Parliament) and Legislation, Taxation and Transport,
  • The 36 subject headings or titles are broken down into over 500 sub-headings, and the relevant Acts and statutory instruments can be found listed in those sub-headings,
  • The search facility allows you to search for either:

o   the name of any Act or statutory instrument, or

o   any of the 36 headings and over 500 sub-headings in the list,

  • All of the 2,000 Acts and 15,000 statutory instruments are linked to their full text on the electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB) or, where available, a Revised Act version (administrative consolidation) prepared by the Commission,
  • Currently, the Commission maintains over 370 Revised Acts.

For example, suppose you want to find every mention of “Taxi” in the Classified List. The search facility will show you results including one Act, the Taxi Regulation Act 2013, and 19 Statutory Instruments.

If you want to look up the full text of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013, click on the 2013 Act from the search results, and the link brings you to Heading 36.6.1 in the Classified List (“Regulation Generally: National Transport Authority and Road Safety Authority”) where the 2013 Act is listed.

Click on it again to get the Revised Act version, because this is one of over 370 Revised Acts now available. If a Revised Act version is not available, you will be brought to the full text of the particular Act, as enacted, on the eISB (which also contains a link to the legislation directory entry for each Act, so that you can track all amendments made to it).

List

The development of the Classified List of In-Force Legislation arose from the Commission’s general statutory mandate under the Law Reform Commission Act 1975 to keep under review the law of Ireland, which includes the revision and consolidation of legislation.

It also arose from the Commission’s participation in the eLegislation Group, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach.

It complements the Commission’s work on Revised Acts, the Legislation Directory and the pre-1922 Statute Law Revision Programme.

In 2010, the Commission published a Consultation Paper on a Classified List of Legislation in Ireland (LRC CP 62-2010) listing all Acts in force, which placed the development of the Classified List in a wider national and comparative setting.

In particular, the Consultation Paper noted that classified lists of legislation, or legislative codes as they are often called, have been developed in other States, notably at both federal and state level in the United States of America.

Significant

Another significant development followed in 2016, which was the publication of the first Classified List of Legislation comprising Acts and Statutory Instruments in Ireland.

The Commission has drawn attention to a number of important limitations concerning the current version of the Classified List:

  • The Classified List contains a list of over 2,000 in-force post-1922 Acts of the Oireachtas and post-1922 statutory instruments, but of over 1,000 pre-1922 Acts that remain in force, the List contains just over 100 of these. The Commission intends to add the remaining pre-1922 in-force Acts over time. A list of these Acts is available in the Statute Law Revision Act 2007, Schedule 1 (retained pre-1922 Public Acts), the Statute Law Revision Act 2009 (retained pre-1922 Private Acts) and the Statute Law Revision Act 2012 (retained pre-1922 Local and Personal Acts),
  • The Classified List does not yet contain a complete list of statutory instruments made under section 3 of the European Communities Act 1972, but these are being added in stages. A full list of these section 3 statutory instruments is published on the eISB at http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/isbc/s3eutoc.html,
  • Some of the features on these pages work on the newer web browsers including Chrome, Edge and Firefox, but not on Internet Explorer.

Users are asked to notify any errors, omissions and comments by email to revisedacts@lawreform.ie.

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