The law reform process comprises the following phases:
Phase I: Identification of an area for law reform
There are basically 3 methods through which a law reform area is identified:
- submissions received from individuals or bodies;
- by the Commission, on its own volition in trying to implement Government policies or in trying to implement or domesticate the obligations of the country under international conventions or indeed in response to social change; or
- the Attorney General, on behalf of Government, may request the Commission to consider any matter of law that is considered to require reform or any area that is considered to require development of legislation
Phase II: Investigation
Once the area of law reform is identified, the process takes the following phases:
- Law Reform Officers are assigned to the Programme as Programme Officers. The Programme Officers conduct preliminary research on the subject under reform and on the status of the law; and
- Programme Officers the develop working papers. Working papers outline issues which guide the work of special Law Commissions. The papers include: Research paper; Consultation Paper; Issue Paper; and Discussion Paper.
(i) Research paper
A Research Paper is often published with a view to documenting initial research related to a particular area under consideration for reform. A Research Paper also determines authoritatively the existing deficiencies that need rectification. The Paper may contain empirical data on which proposals for reform are founded and justified.
(ii) Consultation paper
The Consultation Paper may precede or succeed an Issues Paper. It is normally a compilation of the views of the stakeholders on various issues arising from an area considered for reform. As such, a Consultation Paper may be developed based on issues outlined in the Issues Paper or it may raise issues which form the basis of an Issues Paper.
(iii) Issues paper
In order to guide a reform process, the Commission, at an early stage, determines issues that arise in the area proposed for reform or development. It then publishes the issues in an Issues Paper. The Issues Paper is a consultation tool and serves to announce an investigation into a particular area of law under reform or development and to clarify the aim and scope of the process.
(iv) Discussion paper
When issues have been identified, the Commission makes further inquiry into the subject matter under reform with a view to providing a range of proposals for reform. The result is published as a Discussion Paper. The Discussion Paper is a key working document for each special Law Commission empanelled under a Law Reform Programme.
Phase III: Appointment of commissioners
Individuals with relevant expertise on the subject matter under consideration are identified and appointed as members of a special Law Commission by the Law Commissioner in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission. The persons so appointed serve as Commissioners on the Programme, determine the terms of reference and agree upon the work methodology for that Programme. Mostly, the work of the special law Commission is done through meetings in plenary where the Commissioners meet and deliberate. A special Law Commission may also conduct field visits and comparative study visits to other jurisdictions.
Phase IV: Consultations
Consultations on a subject matter are done with stakeholders and members of the public. These consultations may include: sending working papers for response and comments; workshops; focus group discussions; and study visits. The aim of consultations is to seek views of the stakeholders prior to or on the recommendations of the special Law Commission.
Phase V: Recommendations (report and proposed legislation)
The Special Law Commission develops a Report containing its findings and recommendations for reform. The Report usually has two parts: the narrative and proposed legislation. The Report is submitted to the Minister responsible for Justice for laying in Parliament. The Minister is mandated, further, to refer the proposed legislation to Cabinet for consideration and approval as a Government Bill.
Summary of the law reform process
Identification of a law reform area
- Through external submission
- By the Commission
- Requested by the Attorney General
- Preliminary research by Programme Officers
- Development of working papers
Appointment of commissioners
- Individuals with expertise are considered and appointed as members of a special Law Commission
- Commissioners meet and deliberate in plenary
- Presentation of working papers for comments
- Focus group discussions
- Field research
- Commissioners meet and deliberate in plenary
Report and draft bill
- Report includes narrative and proposed legislation
- Report submitted to the Minister responsible for Justice