This report (released in June 2002) marks the 30 years since the enactment of the legislation that created the Commission. However, the report commemorates a longer history, one that also takes in the Law Reform Committee whose work led to that legislation. That perspective shows the extraordinary range of aspects of the legal system that first the Committee and then the Commission were asked to review. Thus, in this volume my predecessors refer to projects on strata titles, administrative law, local court process, criminal injuries compensation, the caution as a sanction in criminal law, bail, the evidence of children and other vulnerable witnesses, privilege for professional communications, limitation of actions and the state’s criminal and civil justice system. As they note, there is much more to the history this volume marks than that. There have been in all 92 references that have been brought to a conclusion of some sort so far. Many of these references marked significant moments in the state’s social and legal history.
The description in this volume of the work on those references shows the contribution to the literature on the law in Western Australia that the Committee and the Commission have provided. This contribution reflects the commitment to the ideal of law reform of many people. Successive members of the Committee and the Commission and their staff have included some of the most distinguished jurists in our state. But these bodies have also been able to draw on a wider community of those interested in keeping our law under review. This community includes many from the legal profession and academia who have drawn on their experience and insights both as consultants and as commentators. This community has also included a much wider section of our state’s population, of people who have made submissions to the Committee and the Commission. In recent times, they include those who have participated in public meetings and other fora that the Commission has been able to organise. All of the members of this community of concern have helped the Committee and the Commission to enhance the quality of the work this report records. Beyond that assistance, this community has contributed to public ownership of law and its processes in Western Australia.
This report also records every reference the Committee and Commission have received that has issued in a conclusion of some sort. This record is not a bare description of the subject matter of the reference. It is an account of the genesis of the reference, the process involved in addressing it, and its upshot. Most references grew out of a significant question about the law or its administration and initiated the same sort of process. This was a process involving substantial legal research that issued in a discussion paper or papers on which submissions were received from a range of sources. Most references resulted in final reports containing a number of recommendations for legislative change that were promptly acted upon. As this report also indicates, however, particular references have initiated processes to arrive at that endpoint involving both the traditional concern for legal research of high quality and wider processes of public consultation. And whether or not action was taken to implement the recommendations in any of the final reports this report describes, the result was a significant addition to the literature on the law and legal processes in our state, to assist all concerned with their development.
This report also shows that some of the references revisited previously covered ground, most notably references in the area of administrative law and process. Some references were withdrawn when the conditions that gave rise to them had changed. Some references issued in reports indicating that no changes were needed. The constant throughout, as this report indicates, has been a concern for the development of a legal system for our state of a high standard that serves its changing needs.
Finally, this report focuses attention on what might be considered unfinished business in law reform. There has been a high implementation rate of the recommendations of the Committee and the Commission. But as this report notes there is a range of recommendations in final reports that remain unimplemented. Some of those recommendations are we believe no longer relevant. Some of them in the light of current conditions are we consider matters of low priority. There remain, however, a range of recommendations that we believe would substantially enhance the quality of the legal system in our state. This report notes the unimplemented recommendations of all of these sorts, indicating our view as to the priority, if any, they should receive in the agenda for legal change in Western Australia.
It is in these ways that we mean this volume to celebrate, record and continue a history of commitment to the ideal of law reform for the benefit of all Western Australians.
Last updated: 30-Jan-2017
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