Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Making New Zealand Law More Accessible

The Law Commission of New Zealand has released what it calls an Issues Paper on "methods of making New Zealand Statute Law more accessible by the introduction of a more systematic method of classifying and/or indexing Acts of Parliament".

Apparently, laws down there are in a bit of a mess:

"This issues paper is about the accessibility of New Zealand’s statute law; we believe that it falls well short of the desirable standard. Certainly there have recently been improvements in the way our Acts are expressed, and in how they are presented. Moreover we are soon going to have official versions of Acts, continually updated, available electronically and accessible by computer free of charge. However, we believe that much more still needs to be done".

"Acts on the same topic are scattered throughout the statute books, and can be hard to find. The relationship between them is often not clear. There is no official index to help the user. Some Acts have been in force for so long, and amended so often, that they are shapeless and confusing to the reader. It is hard to piece all the amendments together. Old Acts are often drafted in a dense and wordy style that everyone, even lawyers, find hard to understand. These old Acts exist side by side with more modern Acts and provisions. There is thus a mixture of styles. Some old Acts are probably dead wood, and are not needed anymore".

"In short, our statute law as a whole lacks coherence, is untidy and unwieldy, and is difficult to find, understand and use".

"We believe that a detailed official subject index would be of great assistance. So would a programme of revision to tidy the statute book and make it easier to navigate and understand. We believe that a new position should be created in the Parliamentary Counsel Office to oversee such a programme".

"The advance of the electronic age also raises questions about the future of hard copy. They are explored in the paper. We also take the strong view that historical Acts, dating right back to the mid-nineteenth century, should be captured digitally and made available electronically. Some of the old books are in such a precarious state of repair that there is a risk of losing them if something is not done".

"In summary, in this paper we examine the present problems of access to our statute law, and express our strong view that something needs to be done to improve the position".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:40 pm


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