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English Criminal Code: Wikis


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The jurisdiction of England and Wales does not have a Criminal Code though such an instrument has been often recommended and attempted. As of April 2009, the Law Commission is again working on the Code.[1]



  • 1818 - Parliament petitions the Prince Regent for a Law Commission to consolidate English statute law.[2]
  • 1831 - Commission established to enquire into the possibility of a criminal code. The commission reports in 1835 and there are seven more reports over the next decade. A Criminal Law Code Bill is introduced, referred to a Select Committee and then dropped.[2]
  • 1879 - A Royal Commission under Colin Blackburn, Baron Blackburn recommends and drafts a code.[2]
  • 1882 - Since 1844 there had been eight unsuccessful attempts to enact a code.[2]
  • 1965 - The Law Commission of England and Wales is established with a remit to review the law of England and Wales:[2]

... with a view to its systematic development and reform, including in particular the codification of [the] law ... and generally the simplification and modernisation of the law.[2]

— A Criminal Code team is set up including academic lawyer Professor Sir John Cyril Smith, the outstanding criminal lawyer of his time.[2]

  • 1985 - Draft code published.[2][3]
  • 1989 - Draft code revised and expanded.[2]
  • 2002 - Government reiterates its intention to proceed with a code.[4]

Arguments for a code

Attorney-General Sir John Holker said:

Surely, it is a desirable thing that anybody who may want to know the law on a particular subject should be able to turn to a chapter of the Code, and there find the law he is in search of explained in a few intelligible and well- constructed sentences; nor would he have to enter upon a long examination of Russell on Crimes, or Archbold, and other text-books, because he would have a succinct and clear statement before him.[2]

Sir John Smith was, in general an opponent of legal codes but said:

The criminal law is entirely different. It is incoherent and inconsistent. State almost any general principle and you find one or more leading cases which contradict it. It is littered with distinctions which have no basis in reason but are mere historical accidents. I am in favour of codification of the criminal law because I see no other way of reducing a chaotic system to order, of eliminating irrational distinctions and of making the law reasonably comprehensible, accessible and certain. These are all practical objects. Irrational distinctions mean injustice. A is treated differently from B when there is no rational ground for treating him differently; and this is not justice.[2]


  1. ^ "Newsletter". Law Commission. Spring 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-04.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lord Bingham (1998)
  3. ^ Law Commission (1989)
  4. ^ Home Secretary (2002) Justice for All, Cm.5563, p.17


  • Cornish, W. & Clarke, G. (1989). Law and Society in England 1750-1950. London: Sweet & Maxwell. pp. 598–601. ISBN 0421311509.  
  • Law Commission (1989). Criminal Law: A Criminal Code for England and Wales. Vol. 1: Report and Draft Criminal Code Bill (House of Commons papers 1988-89 299 ed.). London: HMSO. ISBN 0102299897.  
  • Herring, J. (2004). Criminal Law: Text, Cases, and Materials. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 17–19. ISBN 0-19-876578-9.  
  • Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Chief Justice of England (1998) "Speech at Dinner for HM Judges, The Mansion House, London, 22 July
  • Spencer, J. (2000). "The case for a code of criminal procedure". Criminal Law Review: 519.  

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