Reform of Non Fatal Offences, Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Dear Nick Clegg and other members of the Government,

I understand that this part of the site has the aim of repealing unnecessary laws; however, in this case I would like to suggest you reform a Law. The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (OAPA 1861) is now 149 years old. The non Fatal offences contained within it use archaic language and words of which modern understanding of them has changed since it was passed, such as the words of Assault and Battery.

The Law Commission produced a report in 1993 to advise them to reform this Law and the report included proposals for reform.

Again, in 1998 the Home Office produced a report on the OAPA 1861 and drew similar conclusions to those found by the Law Commission in 1993. A draft bill was produced also in 1998 but has never gone through Parliament.

OAPA 1861 has been criticised by many times both by academics and members of the Judiciary.

Jack Straw the former Justice Minister and Lord Chancellor described the act as "Outmoded and unclear Victorian legislation."

Also, Lord Ackner in the case of Savage(1991) described OAPA 1861 as a "'rag-bag' of offences"

Why does this idea matter?

I wouldn't say this is my idea as it is certainly a view shared by many, if not all who have encountered this piece of Legislation.

I have seen today the coalition Government is looking at whether or not Prison works and other forms of punishment.

I am hopefully going to University in September to study Psychology and by studying Forensic Psychology in one of my modules at A-level it would appear to be clear that Prison for various reasons does not work , such as some become institutionalised and want to stay so once released they commit more crimes to return to prison, they don't get access to educational programs, build up their criminal connections as well as other various reasons.

I would also like to draw your attention too the USA, a country that imprisons more members of its population than any other country in the World and yet people still commit crime there despite high prison tariffs and the infamous death penalty. In fact in 1991 there were more Black teenagers in jail than in College! If this does not show that we should tackle the social problems that are linked with crime, I don't know what does!

Restorative Justice particularly for minor offences such as property offences like Criminal Damage has shown to work much better than a fine or a Community Sentence.

I'm sorry if it appears I have gone off on a tangent but I assure you this is an important matter.

However, the two key points as to why this Act must and should be Reform is the following:

a) People in order to adhere to the Law must know and understand what the law expects from them. OAPA 1861 does not do this as it uses archaic language which limits its value and access to it by ordinary people.

b) The Law must be clear so that the Judiciary including lay persons such as Magistrates and Juries can understand so to prevent misunderstanding and INJUSTICE!

I hope this will have been of value to you and I look forward to any feedback you may wish to give.

Many Thanks for reading

Lewis Webster

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