The Law Commissions of the UK and Scotland yesterday published their 18th in a series of proposed statute law repeals. A draft Bill containing the proposed repeals will be introduced soon into the House of Lords.
“In reforming the law, the Law Commission does not just propose new laws. It also proposes the repeal of laws that have become obsolete. The purpose of our statute law repeals work is to modernise and simplify the statute book, reduce its size and save the time of lawyers and others who use it. This in turn helps to avoid unnecessary costs. It also stops people being misled by obsolete laws that masquerade as live law. If an Act still features in the statute book and is referred to in text books, people reasonably enough assume that it must mean something.”
The Bill will repeal 260 whole Acts and part repeal 68 other Acts, including:
- Obsolete laws relating to London workhouses including the workhouse at Wapping mentioned by Charles Dickens in The Uncommercial Traveller.
- An Act of 1819 passed following the Peterloo Massacre of that year when 11 people were killed in Manchester.
- Obsolete laws on the police including a law of 1839 requiring street musicians to leave the area if required to do so by irritated householders.
- 40 Acts dating from 1700 for building local prisons across 19 counties in England and Wales .
- 12 obsolete Acts relating to the former East India Company.
- Obsolete laws on turnpikes dating back to a time when roads were maintained locally, with travellers having to pay a toll to cross a turnpike.
The Law Commission of the UK provides some background notes on the statute law repeals process. It has also compiled a list of legal curiosities.