As I like to tell users who come to my library, law reform commission reports can be a legal researcher’s best friend.
Law commissions consult widely with stakeholders, they may compare how other jurisdictions have dealt with the same problem that has you stumped and they frequently dig into the history of an issue.
Here are a few recently released reports that caught my attention.
- Law Reform Commission of Ireland Issues Paper on Cyber-Crime and Cyber-Bullying: “The Commission seeks the views of interested parties on the following 5 issues: 1. Whether the harassment offence in section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 should be amended to incorporate a specific reference to cyber-harassment, including indirect cyber-harassment (…); 2. Whether there should be an offence that involves a single serious interference, through cyber technology, with another person’s privacy (…) ; 3. Whether current law on hate crime adequately addresses activity that uses cyber technology and social media (…) ; 4. Whether current penalties for offences which can apply to cyber-harassment and related behaviour are adequate (…) ; 5. The adequacy of civil law remedies to protect against cyber-harassment and to safeguard the right to privacy (…)”
- Law Commission of England and Wales Report on Kidnapping and Child Abduction: “The new statutory kidnapping offence would be somewhat narrower and more focussed that the existing common law offence. Kidnapping would have fewer, more closely defined, elements and a clearer relationship with the offence of unlawful detention. The new kidnapping offence would be committed where a person, D: without lawful authority or reasonable excuse; intentionally uses force or the threat of force; in order to take another person V, or otherwise cause them to move in his company. We also recommend changes to the offences under sections 1 and 2 of the Child Abduction Act 1984. We recommend the increase of the maximum sentences for these offences from 7 to 14 years’ imprisonment, in order to avoid undesirable inconsistency between the most serious instances of these offences and kidnapping offences of a comparable level of seriousness. We also recommend that the offence under section 1 be extended to cover cases of wrongful retention of a child abroad, in breach of the permission given by another parent (or other connected person) or the court.”
- Law Commission of Ontario Final Report on Capacity and Legal Representation for the Federal Registered Disability Savings Plan: “Under the Income Tax Act (ITA), adults can open an RDSP [Registered Disability Savings Plan] for themselves and decide the plan terms as the ‘plan holder’. However, the ITA provides that where an adult is not ‘contractually competent to enter into a disability savings plan’ with a financial institution, another ‘legally authorized’ person must act as the plan holder. Therefore, a financial institution may decline to enter into an RDSP arrangement with a beneficiary who does not meet the common law test of capacity to enter into a contract. An adult or another interested person, such as a family member, may also believe that an adult lacks capacity to establish an RDSP and wish to appoint a plan holder before approaching a financial institution (…) The Law Commission of Ontario recommends that the Government of Ontario implement a process that would enable adults to personally appoint an ‘RDSP legal representative’ to open and manage funds in an RDSP, where there are concerns about their capacity to enter into an RDSP arrangement with a financial institution. The process would be available to adults who do not have an attorney or guardian for property who could act as their plan holder. It would enable adults to choose who they would like to assist them in gaining access to an important social benefit.”
- Australian Law Reform Commission Report on Equality, Capacity and Disability in Commonwealth Laws: the report examines how the law treats people with disabilities in areas including employment, health, social security, banking, insurance, restrictive practices, access to justice, aged care, and anti-discrimination.
- New Zealand Law Commission Issues Paper on Extradition and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters: “The Extradition Act 1999 governs the circumstances under which another country may request suspects for trial in their country, while the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992 (MACMA) provides the mechanism for another country to request assistance in investigating and prosecuting criminal offences. The Law Commission has arrived at a preliminary conclusion that both the Extradition Act and MACMA are not fit for purpose in the modern, globalised world. Since both Acts were enacted , the landscape for transnational crime has changed significantly . Considerable advancements in technologies and communications, the rapid expansion of global markets, and ever-increasing international travel has escalated the opportunity for both suspects and the evidence and proceeds of crime to be located in different countries (…) Currently, MACMA is too detailed and specific and instead needs to be more principles – based. The general rule should be that any domestic tool that can be used to investigate and prosecute crime, and to restrain and seek forfeiture of property derived from crime, is available for foreign criminal matters in the appropriate circumstances. One of the Commission’s key proposals is that the gateway function should be widened, particularly in the area of search and surveillance so that foreign countries will have the ability to ask the New Zealand Police to conduct searches and surveillance under the Search and Surveillance Act 2012 which are needed to assist the foreign countries in their own investigations.” The report examines the practices concerning this question in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the United States.
- Law Reform Commission of Ireland Issues Paper on Review of section 120 of the Succession Act 1965 and Admissibility of criminal convictions in civil proceedings: “This Issues Paper examines the rule in section 120 of the Succession Act 1965 that a killer is precluded from inheriting from his or her victim’s estate and forfeits any inheritance that he or she would otherwise receive under the victim’s will or on intestacy. The Issues Paper examines whether section 120 of the 1965 Act should be reformed, including where it applies to a joint tenant who kills his or her spouse who was also a joint tenant at the time of death.” Various sections of the document make reference the situation in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US.
- English Law Commission Report on Rights to Light: “The Commission recommends: a statutory notice procedure which would allow landowners to require their neighbours to tell them within a specified time if they intend to seek an injunction to protect their right to light, or to lose the potential for that remedy to be granted; a statutory test to clarify when courts may order damages to be paid rather than halting development or ordering demolition; an updated version of the procedure that allows landowners to prevent their neighbours from acquiring rights to light by prescription; amendment of the law governing where an unused right to light is treated as abandoned; and a power for the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal to discharge or modify obsolete or unused rights to light.”
There is always a chance that a law commission has looked at a legal issue you may be working on. Slaw.ca collaborator Ted Tjaden has a section on how to find law reform commission reports on his legal research writing website.