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It has been suggested by the law commission and others that the sections 18, 20 and 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 should be repealed because they are unjust, ineffective, illogical and severely defective - Explain and comment.

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Introduction

Ciaran Rooney It has been suggested by the law commission and others that the sections 18, 20 and 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 should be repealed because they are unjust, ineffective, illogical and severely defective. In addition the offences, as they are defined are incomprehensible to juries. Explain and comment on these suggestions. It could be said that the Offences under the 1861 Act are unjust because of the sentencing structure. The maximum sentence for S.47 is the same as S.20, five years which seems unjust because S.47 can be as little as causing someone discomfort through injury, whereas s.20 at worst can be as serious as a loss of a limb which is a vast scale of injury for a similar sentence. ...read more.

Middle

The actual logic of the offences comes seriously under question when trying to interpret the act. 'Wounding' is understood to mean piercing of both layers of the skin, the implication of this is that someone can theoretically commit GBH both S.18 and S.20 by pricking someone with a pin. Another point about how the act could be seen as illogical is that before the precedent set in the case of R-v-Ireland and Burstow the courts gave the S.20 offence a narrower actus reus than the more serious S.18 offence. The offences under the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 could be seen as ineffective in the area of domestic violence. Theoretically the offences are no different for domestic violence, but the way the Act is implemented in real life is very negative towards domestic violence. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Law Commission considered the reform of the Offences against the Person Act in 1980 and again in 1990. They subsequently produced a draft Criminal Law Bill, which changed the definitions of the offence so for example S.20 was no longer 'Unlawfully and maliciously wound or inflict Grievous Bodily Harm upon any other person....' But 'recklessly causing serious harm' which from a jury view is a lot more clear, combined with this they also laid down statutory definitions for the areas of mens rea such as recklessness and intent. So it is expected that in the near future the Offences Against Person Act of 1861 will gain the reform it needs, this has been backed up by the issue of a consultation paper in 1998 on the subject of the Act. ...read more.

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