I’m proud to be British. It is my opinion that we are the best country in the world and have some of the best organisations running the country (don’t confuse this with my liking of the current Labour government) with some of the best services available to ordinary citizens. For example as an internet user in the UK you have a vast amount of information available at your fingertips. Should you wish to, via the government or other organisation websites you can:
- Book your driving theory and practical tests online and change them as you wish
- Check car MOT certificate validity
- Initiate a small claims proceeding, track and manage it
- Watch and listen (live) to any event in Parliament
- Keep track of what your MP is saying, what their voting record is and write to them for free
- Look up details for any public company and get financial records about them
- Pay any parking fines
- Renew your library books
And the list goes on. Fair enough, the sites might not be standardised and there are some problems, but that is to be expected with such large systems. Improvement will come with time.
The one thing that is more difficult to do is find out about specific laws and legislation. There are lots of guides and leaflets that can be printed off, ordered and read online for different things such as company law, health and safety and traffic law, but the actual text of the legislatation itself is more difficult to find.
As a law student the law library is a very useful place to find this information, but it is more often than not in book form and when citing sources it would be a lot easier to provide a URL than a book name and page number. It is also easier to copy/paste small sections from a website to back up certain points in an essay.
Hansard, DCA and HMSO provide a useful resource on their respective websites but the documents tend to be scattered around and in a non-standard format. What would be useful is a single database that could be searched and kept up to date with the very latest documents.
Enter the Statute Law Database.
This has been in development and testing for some time and it is only now that it is finally getting ready for public use. I have obtained an account for the Phase 3 testing which will give me access to the database near the end of September to provide my feedback into what I expect will be a valuable resource for students, practicing lawyers and the general public.
Like any government service this has to provide a return to the Treasury and seeing as it is most likely to have cost a considerable amount to create, I will be interested to see how they recoup their costs. I can imagine a detailed search system like is provided with the Census available only to paying users but a “skimming” service to perform basic search available to everyone. I can also see a subscription model for businesses and universities who would want continual access.
What actually happens remains to be seen but you can be sure that if I am allowed to, I shall provide information about the service here once I get access. I bet that I’ll be one of few students who do have access and I intend to use that my advantage.