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Outdated laws to be repealed

Outdated laws to be repealed

Law Commission | Law Commission

2 min read Partner content

A law passed to ensure the rebuilding of St Paul's Cathedral in 1696 is one of just over 800 laws being recommended to Parliament, to be cleared from the statute book this summer.

The Law Commission for England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission make the recommendations for repeal in a new report, and accompanying bill, expected to be introduced into Parliament in the summer.

Included within the bill are 38 Acts relating to the various railway companies operating in British India and the wider East Indies, 40 Acts relating to the City of Dublin before Irish independence, and an Act dating back to 1800, to hold a lottery to win the £30,000 Pigot Diamond.

This is the largest repeal the Commissions have ever produced, with the oldest law dating to 1322 (Statutes of the Exchequer). In total it will repeal 817 whole Acts and part-repeal 50 other Acts.

Sir James Munby, chairman of the Law Commission for England and Wales, said:

"Getting rid of statutory dead wood helps to simplify and modernise our law, making it more intelligible. It saves time and costs for lawyers and others who need to know what the law actually is, and makes it easier for citizens to access justice.

"This report and draft Bill are a great achievement for the Law Commissions. We are committed to ridding the statute book of meaningless provisions from days gone by and making sure our laws are relevant to the modern world."

The 'Imprisoned Debtors Discharge Society's Act' of 1856 might resonate with Dickens fans.

The Society for the Discharge and Relief of Persons Imprisoned for Small Debts throughout England and Wales was a charitable organisation founded in 1772. Its sole purpose was to procure money for those people incarcerated in 'debtors' prisons' in England and Wales, as a result of small unpaid debts.

Perhaps the most famous debtors' prison was the Marshalsea prison, on the south bank of the River Thames in Southwark, recognisable to some as the setting for Dickens' novel 'Little Dorrit', and the small debtors' prison where Dickens' father was incarcerated for debt in 1824, when Charles was only 12 years old.

Ultimately changes to the law meant fewer people were sent to debtors' prisons, thus the 1856 Act allowed the Society to channel any or all of its surplus incomes to other charities, as it saw fit. The complete abolition of imprisonment for debt in 1869 appears to have prompted the full demise of the society, thus rendering the Act obsolete.

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