The Complexity Of Statutes

Publication Date01 Sep 1974
AuthorW. A. Wilson
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1974.tb02399.x
THE COMPLEXITY
OF
STATUTES
‘(
The easiest and plainest Part
of
our law are our statutes.”
IN
recent years lawyers and others have taken a deeper interest in
the style, intelligibility and logical structure of statutes.2
A
keen
eye has noted the omission of the comma preceding the year in the
short title of the Tanganyika Republic Act
1062
and every sub-
sequent statute
3;
the fastidious have deplored such usages as
sky-larking,” and
6c
disapplies
)’
”;
techniques
derived from computer science-algorithms and logical trees-have
been applied to the analysis of legislation--“
If
the law is not to be
an ass, it must be an algorithm.” Most statutes change the law
in some way. This article is an attempt to analyse the contribution
which each sentence of a statute makes towards effecting that
change. For some of the way
it
must follow the arid path taken by
Bentham in his
cc
Of Laws in General.”
It
is helpful to begin by considering the functions
of
certain
expressions frequently occurring in statutes. First of all, one can
identify relational phrases-phrases which show the relation
of
the
effect
of
the sentence to the effect
of
other sentences of the statute
or
of other statutes
or
of the common law.g
(‘
Subject to the pro-
visions of this Act
.
. .”
indicates that the effect of the sentence is
subordinated to the effects
of
other sentences. Although the statute
know-how
’’
1
Sir Georee Mackenzie of Rosehaugh,
Obseraations on the Act
of
Parliament
*
Fitzgerald,
Are Statutes Fit for Academic Treatment
(1971)
11
J.S.P.T.L.
3
Heuaton (1965)
81
L.Q.R.
486;
Hutton (1966) 82
L.Q.R.
24.
4
Family Allowances and National Insuranoe Act, 1961,
8.
2.
5
Finance Act
1968,
8.
21.
6
Finance Act 1969,
8.
16
(5
.
And now the Hijacking Act 1971 and
patrial
7
Lewis and Woolfenden,
Algorithms and Logical Trees: a Self Instructional
Course
(1969) p.
55.
See Lewis, Horabin and Gane,
Flow Charts,,,LogicaZ
Trees and Algorithms
for
Rules and Regulatioy,
H.M.S.O.
(1967)
:
Estate
Duty
on
M.W.P.A.,md Other Trust Po!Fes (1968) 112
S.J.
652; Fitz-
gerald and Spratt, Rule Drafting-I11 (196’3) 119 N.L.J. 1052; Lewis,
Decision Logic Tables
for
Algorithms and Logical Trees,
H.M.S.O.
(1970).
See
also
Klug,
Juristische ?gik
(3rd ed., 1966) pp. 162-168; Layman
5:.
Allen and
M.
E.
Caldwell, Modern Logic and Judicial Decision Making
(1968)
28
Law and Contemporary Problems
El8, 237.
The references which follow are
p
Professor
H.
L.
A.
Hart’s
edition.
A
single law, even
of
the narrowest pattern, may consist and
as
we
shall
see more particularly hereafter will usually consist
of
a
great multitude of
provisions:
a
greater multitude by far
than
from anything that hee hitherto
been observed would easily be suspected. These provisions
in
order
to
have
the effect they are designed to have, it is necessary that the influence they
are meant
to
have
on
one another should by some means or other be made
appear.” Bentham,
op.
cit.,
p. 159.
1621
Agznst Bankrupts,
p.
1.
142.
in the Immigration Act
1
B
71.
8
Particularly Chap.
X,
9
Aspecte
of
a
Law.
497

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