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Land Charges Act 1972

Brief Background

The Land Charges Act 1972 is a piece of legislation that enhances the system for creating and registering charges over unregistered land across England and Wales. If an interest in the land is not registered effectively, the land could be acquired by a purchaser, free of any unprotected interest.

Why was it introduced?

The Land Charges Act 1972 was introduced to update sections of the previous act, the Land Charges Act 1925. 1925 was an important year in the context of property law as a number of reforms were rolled out to ensure that the conveyancing process could be completed for less money and at a faster pace. This included legislation such as the Law of Property Act 1925 and the Land Registration Act 1925.

What was the aim of the Act?

Before the Land Charges Act 1925 was introduced, there were two rules used to understand whether an individual had a right to land over another individual. The first was by looking at the legal rights, which was usually found by looking at the documentation relevant to the land. The second was to consider the equitable rights to the land, which involved the doctrine of notice. This had led to an undesirable situation for both parties as the binding of the purchaser would be considered on purely whether she/he had knowledge of the equitable interest. Therefore, the Land Charges Act 1925, which is now the Land Charges Act 1972, was introduced to remedy such issues.

What main changes did it make to the law?

The Land Charges Act 1972 deals almost exclusively with the issue of equitable interests that it sought to remedy. It must be noted that the legislation only applies to unregistered land. It is also important to note that unregistered land is land that does not qualify under the Land Registration Act 1925 and 2002 as this is a very different system. The Land Charges Act 1972 dealt with the specific issue regarding equitable interests by requiring that an individual now enters such interests onto a register. The register can be inspected by prospective buyers who wish to understand what rights are held over the land and by whom. However, if the purchaser knew of these rights before he/she purchased the land then they would be bound by them. It is important to note that the Land Charges Act 1972 relies on a name based system and therefore searches can be carried out incorrectly when individuals use their middle or nicknames this can create a great amount of confusion.

Key Sections

The Land Charges Act 1972, section 1 emphasises the registers that the Land Charges Department is required to keep. These are; a register of land charges, a register of pending actions, a register of writs and orders affecting the land and a register of annuities. This is important as it highlights the primary task of the Land Charges Department.

The Land Charges Act 1972, section 2 lays out the different classes of land charge that are available. These are as follows:

  • Class A – a right that arises out of an Act of Parliament that allows an estate owner to apply to receive money for the right.
  • Class B – a right to automatically receive money from the estate owner, with no application, as a result of an Act of Parliament.
  • Class C (i) – A puisne mortgage – this often relates to a second mortgage on a property.
  • Class C (ii) – a charge that is acquired by a tenant for life
  • Class C (iii) – a general equitable charge that is not included in any other class of land charge.
  • Class C (iv) – estate contracts – this class of charge includes the contract for the transfer of estate and purchase options
  • Class D (i) – a charge placed by Inland Revenue
  • Class D (ii) – Restrictive covenants but only those created after the original Act was introduced (1st January 1925)
  • Class D (iii) – Equitable easements entered after or on 1st January 1926.
  • Class E – Annuities
  • Class F – Right of occupation

The Land Charges Act 1972, section 3 requires that the land charges that are registered shall be done so in the name of the estate owner and that this name should be the same as the name used on the conveyance. This is important as where this is registered inaccurately, another interest in the land may take priority. See the case of Diligent Finance v Alleyne (1972) for more information on this point.

The Land Charges Act 1972, section 10 provides for the searches of the Land Charges Register. This can be done either personally or officially. An official search gives better protection and is considered as conclusive even if the Land Registry was erroneous during their search.


Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996

Brief Background

The Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996, is an Act of Parliament which eradicated the ‘year and a day rule’ in England and Northern Ireland. The ‘year and a day’ rule created a presumption that if a death had occurred after a year and a day of the act or omission of the defendant, then this could not be considered as a murder. The Act only consists of three short sections and is therefore could be considered as quite a short piece of legislation. 

Why was it introduced?

The ‘year and a day rule’ provided that a person could only be charged for an offence of homicide if the victim died within a year and a day of the last act or omission by the defendant. The rule had existed since the 1200’s but had become rapidly outdated by the advances of medicine and science, which allowed victims to be given life-prolonging treatment much past the ‘year and a day’ mark. As a result of this, prosecutions of offenders were becoming increasingly difficult to secure, despite the ultimate cause of death being the actions or omission of the defendant. This created instances where defendants were either being charged for less severe offences and therefore receiving punishments which were significantly less than those given for murder, or avoiding being charged at all if the time window had passed in which they could be held accountable. Understandably, it was argued by the public and by politicians that this rule was not in the interests of justice and should be amended.

The Bill for the passing of the Act was introduced for consideration in 1995 and was not edited throughout its passage through Parliament. The Act gained Royal Assent on June 17, 1996.

What was the aim of the Act?

The aim of the Act was to ultimately redress the judicial process of securing a conviction against the defendant(s) for his/her act or omission that caused the death of the victim. The ‘year and a day’ rule was restrictive and would have either required the victim to pass away prior to the end of this timeframe or to lose the opportunity to prosecute the defendant despite the fact that it was the defendant’s act or omission that caused the damage that led to the victim’s death in the first instance. The ‘year and a day’ rule was also beginning to cause confusion across other areas of the criminal law. In R v Dyson [1908] 2 KB 454, the judge directed the jury that they could find the defendant guilty, despite the fact that the injuries were caused almost two years prior. The Court of Appeal overruled the judge’s direction but this gave a good indication of the judiciary’s willingness to extend the rule. As a result of this, it was understandable that such an Act would be introduced to summarise the use of the rule.  

What main changes did it make to the law?

The Act abolished the ‘year and a day’ rule as of June 17, 1996. However, the ‘year and a day rule’ continued to apply to cases where the death caused by the defendant’s act or omission occurred before the inception of the Act. Importantly, the Act created two scenarios which required the Attorney General to provide consent for prosecution. The first was in a situation where the death occurred three or more years after the action of the defendant. This was considered necessary to protect individuals from oppressive prosecutions that had ultimately lapsed in time and would be considered historic. The second situation that required the Attorney General’s consent was where the accused had already been convicted for an offence in relation to the death. This helped to prevent instances of double jeopardy.

Key Sections

Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996, section 1 defines the rule in clear detail and also states that the rule will be abolished for all purposes.

Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996, section 2 establishes safeguards on prosecution. It requires the consent of the Attorney General in two circumstances. The first is consent for prosecution where a death is over three years after the injury has been sustained. The second is where the accused has previously been convicted for an offence in relation to the death.

Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996, section 3 deals with the title of the Act, the commencement and the extent of the Act in that it applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Murder (Abolition of the Death Penalty) Act 1965

Brief Background

The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 is a piece of legislation in the United Kingdom which abolished the death penalty for murder across England and Wales. This built upon the earlier Homicide Act 1957 which restricted the imposition of the death penalty as a punishment for murder. The Act did not extend to Northern Ireland, but the death penalty was later prohibited in Northern Ireland in 1971. The Act gained Royal Assent on 8 November 1965.

Why was it introduced?

During the 1950’s, there were a series of cases that raised questions as to the effectiveness of the death penalty. Two high-profile cases included Timothy Evans (1950) and Derek Bentley (1953). Evans suffered from learning disabilities and was executed having falsely confessed to murdering his wife and child as a result of being manipulated by his neighbour who was also the individual that murdered the victims. From this, a number of reports and appeals had been raised in relation to how appropriate the death penalty punishment was. Another controversial case arose three years later with Derek Bentley. Bentley had suffered serious head injuries as a child and had a low IQ. During the course of an armed robbery his acquaintance shot two police officers, killing one of them. Bentley was charged and convicted for joint enterprise in committing the murder but Bentley was actually under arrest at the times the shootings had occurred. It was argued that Bentley was hung as his accomplice was only 16 years of age, and therefore below the minimum age to receive the death penalty. 

The Act was introduced as an answer to the high-profile cases and the heightened pressures arising out of Parliament to abolish the death penalty. The Act was eventually by way of a private member’s bill by an MP.

What was the aim of the Act?

The aim of the Act was to ensure that the penalties for murder that were handed down by the judiciary were justifiable and did not cause any severe injustices that had been seen in the years building up to the introduction of the Act. Further to this, there had been studies that had been carried out that showed that abolishing capital punishment did not cause crime rates to rise and was therefore not as effective as a deterrent as first believed.

What main changes did it make to the law?

The Act came into effect on 9 November 1965 and had an immediate effect for the sixteen men who were facing a death sentence at that time. For those individuals, their sentences were changed to life imprisonment. Further to this, the death penalty across England, Scotland and Wales was suspended for five years. It should be noted here that the Murder (Abolition of the Death Penalty) Act 1965 only abolished the death penalty for murder, as per the Homicide Act 1957 and therefore the death penalty was still applicable to for a number of other areas. These offences included high treason, arson in the Royal Dockyards, piracy with violence and the capital offences listed under military law. However, the Murder (Abolition of the Death Penalty) Act 1965 was fundamental in changing the way punishment was handled by the judiciary, despite the fact that public opinion took longer to modify.

The legislation did contain a clause which held that the Act would expire after five years unless Parliament made this permanent before the time period had expired. Parliament made the Act permanent in 1969, a year before its scheduled expiry.

Key Sections

Since the introduction of the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965, there have been adaptations to the Act by subsequent pieces of legislation which have modified and updated some of the law. However, the key sections that are still active are as follows:

  • Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965, section 1 (1) is the foundation of the Act and holds that no person shall suffer the death penalty for committing murder and a person that is convicted of the offence shall be sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965, section 1 (3) holds that if any individual was under a sentence for the death penalty at the time of the commencement of the Act, their sentence would be amended to a sentence for life imprisonment.
  • Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty Act, 1965, section 3 (3) confirms that the Act will not extend to Northern Ireland.
  • Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty Act, 1965, section 3 (4) states that the Act would come into force following the day on which it is passed. This Act came into effect on 9 November 1965.


Homicide Act 1957


Brief Background

The Homicide Act 1957 gained Royal Assent on 21 March 1957 and is an Act of Parliament that helped to partially reform the offence of murder in the English common law.

Why was it introduced?

The Committee was created at a time when the English legal system was considering the creation of different degrees for murder. This was seen by the Committee as impractical and as such, they recommended changes to the law. Further to this, shortly after the recommendations were completed, there were a number of high profile and controversial cases. This included the case of Derek Bentley who was hung on the basis of a joint enterprise to commit murder despite it being his 16-year old friend who had killed a police-officer, whilst Bentley was actually under arrest. Two years later, Ruth Ellis was hung for killing her partner despite having a good case to raise diminished responsibility, a defence for murder which was not recognised at that time.

What was the aim of the Act?

The aim of the Act was multi-faceted. The first goal was to amend the doctrine of constructive malice. Constructive malice enabled the prosecution of a number of high-profile cases and had the potential to cause injustice. The introduction of the Act looked to redress this. Further to this, the aim of the Act was to address the defences that could be made available to those suffering from mental impairment during the course of an act or omission that caused the death of a victim and for those in suicide pacts.

What main changes did it make to the law?

Specifically, the Act abolished the doctrine of constructive malice. This doctrine found that the mental requirement to establish the offence of murder could be assigned to the defendant if the victim’s death was caused whilst another offence was being committed (e.g. robbery). Moreover, the Act also introduced defences to murder, which was seen as an increasingly necessary step in criminal law cases and would enable a murder charge to be reduced to a charge of manslaughter if they were proven as successful.

Key Sections

The Homicide Act, section 1 abolished the concept of constructive malice except in cases where the intention in the first crime was an intention to cause serious harm or to kill. This disrupted the chain of causation and required the jury to establish whether the defendant was guilty of causing the death of the victim. It should be noted that the Act did not abolish implied or express malice and therefore if this could be proven by the prosecution, they would still have grounds for the charge. This was confirmed by the case of DPP v Smith [1961].

The Homicide Act, section 2 created the partial defence of diminished responsibility. The recommendations put forward by the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment recognised that mental difficulties were quite common and would have an impact on a number of offences in the criminal law. The section now allows for the defence of diminished responsibility if the accused suffered from an ‘abnormality of the mind’ during the commissioning of his/her act or omission which resulted in the murder. Examples of this in case law have included battered woman syndrome seen in R v Ahluwalia [1992] and post-natal depression as we the case in R v Reynolds [1988]. This defence is not to be confused with the defence of insanity. The key difference between the two is that diminished responsibility requires a mental impairment arising from an abnormality of the mind whereas the defence of insanity requires the defendant to prove that there was a defect of reasoning which had arisen from a disease of the mind.

The Homicide Act, section 4 was created to show sympathy to those who had not died when trying to commit suicide as part of a suicide pact. A suicide pact can be defined as an agreement between two or more parties which allows for the death of all those individuals. It is considered that the trauma of such a pact was the equivalent to a life sentence and therefore murder was not a reasonable sentence. As a result, the Act states that where a person kills, or is a party to a death during the course of a suicide pact, the charge should be reduced to manslaughter. However, the burden of proof will lie with the defendant to prove that he/she had a ‘settled intention of dying’ and was, in fact, a party to the pact in question.

The Homicide Act, section 17 holds that the Act shall not extend to Northern Ireland.


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