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I note attempts are being made by the Bar to allow on-line access to UK statute law and statutory material (The Lawyer 9 January, 'Bar calls for on-line statute law'). A big problem is, of course, the question of Crown copyright.
On the continent, statute law is public material, the thinking being that citizens should have access to the law. There are no copyright considerations.
Since the 1980s, Denmark's Ministry of Justice has operated its "Retsinformation", an on-line statute and secondary legislation database. The charge of about £1 per minute covers the operating expenses.
A wide array of search criteria can be selected and the user has instant desktop access to up-to-date legislation.
New legislation is typed into the current legislation database and old legislation transferred to a separate one, but it is possible to move between the two using "hyperspring".
Initial use was low, but it is now widely used as lawyers have become familiar with the system and user interfaces have been improved. Retsinformation is now a prime candidate for privatisation, an attraction which ought to appeal to the UK Government.
Having used the system, I have been very impressed and am able to find Danish legislation much quicker and easier than using loose-leaf ring-binders and slips of paper.
The question should not be whether the UK should have such a system, but why it was not introduced a long time ago.