Ignorantia legis


This report from UK think tank the Adam Smith Institute looks at how the growing red tape burden undermines the rule of law and economic prosperity.

The Adam Smith Institute’s latest paper, by Robin Ellison, a Visiting Professor at City, University of London, explains why the UK needs to reduce, simplify, and properly catalogue the law: The law is constantly changing and growing — increasing in length and complexity — placing growing burdens on citizens and businesses. Citizens must comply with an ever expanding array of legislation, regulations known as ‘statutory instruments’ (of which there were over 1,000 in 2020), imported European Union legislation, and tens of thousands of pages of materials issued by dozens of regulatory agencies. The United Kingdom lacks a depository of all laws and regulations. We are all expected to follow the law, yet there does not exist a proper list of the legislation and regulations that citizens must abide by. The lack of single regulatory source undermines the rule of law, severely burdens business and leads to the creation of more red tape. Judges and lawyers, let alone citizens and businesses, often complain about the difficulty ascertaining the state of the law. The inability to identify the law has led to unfair application including common sentencing mistakes.

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