Law Reform Commission Publishes Annual Report for 2000
Commission's recommendations make a major impact on the statute book
The 2000 Annual Report of the Law Reform Commission has just been published. A recent review of the Commission's work, carried out by the Attorney General's Consultative Committee, confirms that since its inception in 1975, the Commission has had a major impact on the statute book. Leading examples include the adoption of the Commission's proposals on the confiscation of the proceeds of crime (Criminal Justice (No.3) Act, 1994) and on non fatal offences against the person (Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act, 1997).
In a busy year for the Commission, the Government approved the Second Programme for Law Reform. The Programme runs over seven years and embraces such disparate areas as tribunals of inquiry, homicide (including corporate homicide), penalties for minor offences, compensation for personal injuries, trusts including charities, succession and the protection of the elderly.
Following a wide process of public consultation, the Programme was drawn up with the assistance of the Attorney General's Consultative Committee. The Consultative Committee includes representatives of the Commission, of relevant Government Departments, and of the Bar Council and Law Society. One of its key functions is to monitor the implementation of the Commission's recommendations.
The Commission published five Reports/Consultation Papers during the year:
- Report on Aggravated, Exemplary and Restitutionary Damages (control of excessive damage awards)
- Report on Statutory Drafting and Interpretation: Plain Language and the Law
- Report on The Rule against Perpetuities and Cognate Rules (abolition of rule which can block family gifts and legitimate commercial transactions)
- Report on The Variation of Trusts (practical problems where trustees' powers are outdated, overly restricted or inadequate)
- Consultation Paper on Law of Limitation of Actions arising from the Non-Sexual Abuse of Children.
Work is continuing on the Second Programme. In 2001 the Commission published the first in a series of Consultation Papers designed to lay the groundwork for the codification of the law of homicide: Homicide: the Mental Element in Murder. The Commission's principal proposal in that Paper was to widen the definition of the mental element in murder to include reckless indifference to the value of human life.
Work is also under way on law relating to charities, penalties for summary offences, restorative justice (re-integration of offenders), awards of damages, corporate homicide, statutes of limitation and law and the elderly. This latter topic is particularly timely given the age profile of the population looking at areas such as wills, care of the elderly including reform of the legislation in respect of wards of court, decision-making on behalf of the incapacitated elderly person, advance care directives and the problems of elder abuse (including crimes against the elderly).
Commenting on the Annual Report, the Hon Mr Justice Declan Budd, President of the Law Reform Commission said: "The Law Reform Commission plays a vital role in undertaking research on the history and present state of aspects of our law and putting forward suggestions for reform, from the objective viewpoint of an independent statutory body. Since the Commission was set up in 1975, it has produced over 80 Consultation Papers and Reports. The Second Programme for Law Reform is the foundation stone on which, over the next seven years, the Commission intends to co-operate with others who are interested in law reform and those who are responsible for bringing its recommendations into legislation".