Legal System | Law Making
Statute Law: Structure
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An Act of Parliament is presented in a specific format. So identifying the common features enables correct reading and helps in understanding references.
The short title of an Act, including the publication date is the normal way to describe a statute. It may be abbreviated, for example Human Rights Act 1998 becomes HRA 1998.
The official citation, is the number given to each Act passed in a year and is called the chapter number.
The long title of an Act gives a concise explanation of the aims of the Act.
Royal Assent is indicated by the date that assent was given. An Act will commence on this date unless otherwise specified.
This is the standard form of words to indicate that an Act has been properly passed by all the different branches of the legislature.
Sections, Subsections, Paragraphs and Parts
The main body of the statute is divided up into numbered sections, sub-divided into subsections, paragraphs, and sometimes sub-paragraphs. In longer statutes, sections may be further grouped into parts.
Each section may have short marginal notes to explain its contents. They are not part of the Act and therefore has no direct legal effect. Since 2001, marginal notes now appear in bold type as headings to each section.
Some statutes have headings, which are considered part of the statute but are but are of little use as an aid to interpretation and more of a navigation tool.
The commencement section is usually found towards the end of the statute and details any commencement factors.
Schedules are found at the end of an Act. Schedules can provide contain details of amendments to previous legislation or further details and definitions not found in the body of the Act. The schedules may be divided into paragraphs.
Old Acts contain a preamble which explain the purpose of the Act.