Stuffs had strange names and were very expensive in the days of the Tailor of Gloucester

By | 24th August 2011

Ancient legislation has been much in the news recently what with the 100th birthday of the Official Secrets Act of 1911 and the dusting off and scrutiny of the provisions of the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 by countless claimants and nervous police forces (and insurers).

The oldest piece of Statute law in the United Kingdom which has not yet been repealed is the Statute of Marlborough of 1267. Two provisions are still in force, namely the Waste Act of 1267 which seeks to prevent tenant farmers making waste on land where they are tenants and the Distress Act 1267 which makes provision for the recovery of damages (distresses).

Many people would say that an even older piece of legislation is Magna Carta of 1215, although the charter is not strictly speaking an Act of Parliament.

The Vagabonds Act of 1383 has a claim to the title of the oldest Act of Parliament but the one I like best as an adopted son of Norfolk is the Act entitled the Taking of Apprentices for Worsteds in the County of Norfolk 1497.

Legislation had strange names and wonderful titles in the days before the weight of legislation churned out by Parliament overwhelmed us all!

Even the 1972 Island of Rockall Act evokes an earlier imperial era being an “Act to incorporate that part of Her Majesty’s dominions known as the Island of Rockall into the United Kingdom”, legislation designed to protect the Rock from the predations of the Irish and Iceland.

How dreary then that the bill (doubtless destined to become law) to introduce many of the reforms suggested by Lord Justice Jackson in his report on the cost of civil litigation should be buried in the prosaic Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill 2011. The bill has received a second reading and, assuming it becomes law, is intended to take effect from October 2012.

I mention this only to alert anyone reading these words to the fact that Jackson has not been forgotten even in these days of riot, deficit and financial upheaval.

In the draft bill, designed to cut 10% of the legal aid bill as a contribution of some £300 million to cutting the deficit, and tucked away between clauses 41 and 53, are provisions which will outlaw the recoverability of success fees and the premiums paid for after the event insurance.

On a more positive note (should you think that those provisions amount to a less than positive outcome for claimants) is the momentum which appears to be behind other Jackson inspired reforms of civil litigation.

Typing this as I prepare to fly out to Nashville for the ILTA 2011 Conference, I have no time to go in to this in detail but can do no better than to recommend a summary of the current state of play written by Chris Dale (@chrisdaleoxford)  following the recent e-Discovery conference in Singapore: Lord Justice Jackson in Singapore: Piloting Civil Justice Reforms, e-Discovery Information Project blog, 11th Aug, 2011.

Of particular note are firstly the list of Lord Justice Jackson’s proposed menu options in relation to orders for disclosure and secondly the 16 causes of the high cost of civil litigation. Whatever you take from the post, I commend the whole piece to you all.

Normal service will be resumed in September after my return from Nashville and the August Bank Holiday. As and when time permits between family births, weddings and various other significant celebrations, I will report on ILTA at that stage.

In the meantime bring yourselves up to date with proceedings in Asia!