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What is Consolidated Legislation? Why Does it Matter?

Written by Garth Watson
on January 17, 2017

Oh, the complicated places where legal obligations live...

To quote from a previous post:

"Most of the time the law, especially regulatory law, is as clear as day. Everyone can understand it. The problem is that the clear applicable regulation is often hidden and obscured in many different places, such as Section 19(1)(a)(iiii)(f)(e)(e)(s) of Dusty Statute, 1985 and Section 12(4)(f)(ffff)(h)(o)(u)(r)(l)(y)(ra)(te) of New Regulation You Need to Know, 2016.
The thing that makes this simple law complicated is that it is found in incredibly obscure places and it's often presented in impressively complicated ways. The clear law that applies to you is hidden amongst a whole lot of other law that doesn't apply to you. It only adds to the complexity."

Most legislation takes the format of a definitions section, followed by a list of sections that may or may not apply to one's company or operations, followed by a provision relating to secondary or delegated legislation that may be made in terms of the primary legislation, followed by a section setting out the sections, which, if breached may lead to a criminal offence or a penalty.

If you are responsible, in any way, for legal compliance, the last thing you want is to trawl through masses of legal provisions that do not apply to you, trying to find the needle in the haystack, and trying to figure out exactly what your obligations are.

Finding legal obligations is a time consuming task, but the task can be made almost impossibly time consuming because any given regulation may be fragmented across different amendments. The law often changes. These changes happen when "amendment Acts" are published. So, you'll have Regulation X, as amended by Regulation Y, as amended by Regulation Z and so on. Often the list of amendments is quite long. This results in quite a job of figuring out what the statute or regulation, "as amended as at today's date" is. You can't simply look at one document. You have to piece the original statute together with all the amendment statutes.

In order to even begin managing legal compliance (read this blog to understand the three vital keys to legal compliance) you'll need to have a way to figure out what your law is as at today's date. You will need access to consolidated legislation, which is legislation that has been curated and pieced together by legal librarians, with assistance from time to time from specialist lawyers, so that the version of legislation that you have, includes all of the amendments.

If you don't have this you will find it impossible to figure out what the law actually said. It was a full time job for a legal librarian so don't be fooled into thinking you can do it as part of your compliance function. You are time poor enough as it is, and trying to piece amendment Acts together is going to leave you hopelessly frustrated and expose your company to unnecessary legal risk.

Make sure you, or the company you rely on for your legal compliance information, has started with consolidated legislation and not fragmented legislation from which it is impossible to figure out the answer to the question, "so what does the law say we must do?".