The Law Commission – Who, Why and How?

Who are they?

The Law Commission is the statutory independent body created by the Law Commissions Act 1965 to keep the law under review and to recommend reform where it is needed.

What’s their purpose?

The aim of the Commission is to ensure that the law is:

  • fair
  • modern
  • simple
  • as cost-effective as possible

Areas of law

Commerical and common


Property, family and trust


Statute law repeals

Other (These projects lie outside the areas of law covered by the legal teams.)

Criminal law team

Professor David Ormerod was appointed Law Commissioner with effect from 1 September 2010 for up to five years.

Professor Ormerod is Professor of Criminal Justice at the School of Law Queen Mary University of London and a practising barrister. He edits the Criminal Law Review and authors Smith and Hogan’s Criminal Law.

The team is supported by a number of lawyers and research assistants.

Current and future projects

Contempt of Court

Criminal Liability in Regulatory Contexts

Insanity and Automatism

Misconduct in public office

Offences against the person

Simplification of the Criminal Law

Simplification of the Criminal Law: Public Nuisance and Outraging Public Decency

Unfitness to Plead

Previous projects

Previous projects have included:

Bad character

Murder, manslaughter and infanticide

Assisting or encouraging crime

Conspiracy and Attempts

But what do they actually do?

Well, the Commission conduct research and consultations and subsequently make recommendations to Parliament as to how they think the law ought to be changed and why.

The purpose is to improve the law by codifying the law, eliminate anomalies (and errors) repeal obsolete enactments and reduce the number of separate statutes (not an easy task with the rafts and rafts of criminal legislation).

The Commission does not give legal advice.

How do they decide what areas to consider?

Before deciding which projects to take forward, the Law Commission takes views from judges, lawyers, Government Departments, the voluntary and business sectors, and the general public.

The criteria:

The Commission considers reviewing an area of law reform against certain criteria:

  • importance – the extent to which the law is unsatisfactory, and the potential benefits from reform
  • suitability – whether the independent non-political Commission is the most suitable body to conduct the review
  • resources – valid experience of Commissioners and staff, funding available, and whether the project meets the requirements of the programme


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