Law Commission steps up government pressure

THE chairman of the Law Commission is increasing pressure on the Government to clear the backlog of commission reports waiting to be made law.

The pressure comes as the commission's annual report is published.

Mr Justice Carnwath, who took up the three-year post in February, says more than 20 reports covering key legal issues remain unimplemented.

He met with Home Secretary Jack Straw recently to sound him out on the chances of the Government allocating parliamentary time to turn the reports into legislation.

Carnwath says he is optimistic. “There is a lot of concern about this at a high level of government. I would be also anxious that new projects that we start are clearly leading to the prospect of being implemented.

“It is part of my function to speed this up. I am not a politician but I can put this on the agenda. There is a genuine eagerness to get this implemented,” he says.

The Government, he concedes, has departmental bills vying for time, but he hopes that by the end of the year there will be a rough timetable for turning some of the commission's reports into law.

He sees the priorities in the backlog as reform of the criminal law, especially the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and corruption; the law governing who makes decisions for people with a mental incapacity; and land registration, which affects everyone who is buying or selling a house.

Carnwath says the commission is now working on reforming the Companies Act to streamline directors' duties by removing unnecessarily complicated and burdensome elements.

The issue of double-jeopardy will also undergo review after the Stephen Lawrence case.

New guidelines for damages awarded in personal injury and wrongful death cases are also being drawn up, and it is expected that the level of damages will be increased.

He will personally be involved in drawing up reforms following the Human Rights Act and leasehold law.