Top 10 Law Milestones of the Decade

Posted on December 19, 2019
Law Milestones of the Decade

As the decade draws to a close, what better opportunity to take a look at the legal highlights of the last ten years? From landmark Supreme Court rulings to Parliamentary Acts, 2010 to 2019 has seen many legal developments.

The laws that underpin our society shape our daily lives, so the extent to which the legal landscape has evolved over the last decade means we find ourselves a very different nation going into 2020. At Jefferies Solicitors, we have kept abreast of these developments with a keen eye and are proud to have supported our clients throughout ever-changing life circumstances.

Since the waves of legislation affecting diversity and inclusion sparked by the Equality Act at the beginning of the decade, we have deployed our compassion and expertise to support individuals from all walks of life. Jefferies look forward to continuing to offer whatever specialist law services our clients need, throughout the next ten years and beyond.

Here are our top ten law milestones of the last decade:

2010 – The Equality Act

Kicking off the decade was this landmark piece of legislation that paved the way for progress towards the eradication of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability and religion or belief. This Act of Parliament consolidated, updated and supplemented numerous Acts and Regulations, including the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Under the new Act, organisations and businesses with 250 or more employees must now report their gender pay gaps every Spring: a huge step towards equality in the workplace.

2013 – Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act

In July 2013, the UK Parliament passed legislation to allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales, which came into force and was followed by the first same-sex marriages in March 2014. The Scottish Parliament passed their own legislation in February 2014, which took effect in December of the same year. We are finishing the decade with full scope for same-sex marriage to be legislated for throughout the United Kingdom by the end of January 2020, following the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act, which received Royal Assent in July 2019.

2015 – The Deregulation Act

March 2015 saw Royal Assent given to the Parliamentary Act intended to reduce the burden of existing legislation on businesses and individuals, including the repeal of legislation which no longer has practical use. The Act was particularly pertinent to landlords, as it included provision for countering retaliatory evictions and imposed new obligations on landlords serving notice to tenants.

Legislation affecting landlords was further updated with the Tenant Fees Act, which applies to new or renewed tenancy agreements signed on or after 1 June 2019. The Act bans most letting fees and caps tenancy deposits paid by tenants in the private rented sector in England. Read about the Property Law services we offer to landlords and tenants here.

2016 – The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

It was near impossible to be unaware of GDPR and its implications around May of 2018, as businesses around the world prepared for the EU Regulation (made in April 2016) to come into force. Designed to protect the data and privacy of citizens of the European Union and European Economic Area, GDPR meant that many businesses had to adapt their approach to data processing, making a culture shift in the way sensitive information of individuals is handled.

2017 – Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union

Perhaps the most divisive new word of the decade, ‘Brexit’ is the defining societal issue of the second half of the 2010s and is set to shape the foreseeable future of the United Kingdom. The process began in June 2016 when the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum favoured withdrawal from the EU by a 4% margin (52% to 48%).

Following this result, UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced in October 2016 that Article 50 would be invoked by the first quarter of 2017. Further legal processes transpired in January 2017, when the Supreme Court ruled that the process could not be initiated without an authorising act of Parliament, and ruled against the Scottish Government’s claim in respect of devolution. The Withdrawal Act became law in June 2018, though negotiations are still ongoing and will be dependent on the results of the UK General Election this month.

2018 – Supreme Court Ruling: UK Judges No Longer Required to Rule on Removing Life-Support

July 2018 saw a landmark decision from the Supreme Court that impacted the families of loved ones in a vegetative state. Lady Black ruled that, when families and doctors are in agreement, medical staff will be able to remove feeding tubes without applying to the Court of Protection.

Previously, doctors in such scenarios have been able to withdraw all sorts of treatment that will result in the end of someone’s life (e.g. life-saving dialysis), yet would need permission from a judge for the withdrawal of food and water. The changes to this aspect of law will have saved families and health authorities from lengthy and expensive appeals processes.

2018 – Supreme Court Ruling: Unlawful Exemption from Widowed Parent’s Allowance

In August 2018, unmarried mother-of-four Siobhan McLaughlin won a landmark court case, which could allow her to claim a Widowed Parent’s Allowance. Though she lived with her partner for 23 years, the pair were never married, so Ms McLaughlin was not entitled to claim the benefit when he died. The UK Supreme Court ruled this was incompatible with human rights law, thus putting pressure on the UK’s legislatures to review the existing law and ensure it is human rights compliant.

2019 – The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (Remedial) Order 2018

January 2019 saw the Remedial Order come into force that updated the legislation of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. The Order was brought before Parliament in 2017 and approved in 2018 after Sir James Munby, then president of the Family Division of the High Court, declared the law incompatible with human rights legislation in 2016. As a result, single people in the UK can now become parents via surrogacy, removing the limitations of the existing Act, which only applied to couples.

2019 – The Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths Bill

A Supreme Court ruling in June 2018, hard fought by equality campaigners Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, found restrictions on opposite-sex civil partnerships in breach of human rights. As a result, the bill extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples allows many male-female couples the financial benefits of marriage without getting wed by the end of this year.

2020? – Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill

In July 2018, the Supreme Court judgement in the case of Owens v Owens made waves due to its implications for the law surrounding divorce. Lord Wilson’s majority judgement ruled that the divorce petition of Mrs Owens did not satisfy the court that Mr Owens’ behaviour justified a divorce decree. The decision was met by calls for a reform of the divorce process by those in favour of ‘no-fault divorce’, which was represented by the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill introduced into Parliament in June 2019.

Though the Bill was well-supported, it failed to complete its passage through Parliament before the end of the session due to the announcement of the UK General Election, meaning it would have to be reintroduced under the new government in the next Parliamentary session. As a result, no-fault divorce campaigners may have to wait for some of the Brexit dust to settle in the New Year before seeing any progress with changes to the law.

It’s clearly been a momentous decade for our evolving society, and we look forward to seeing what further developments will shape our world in 2020 and beyond. We wish you all the best for the new decade; the law of life is ever changing, but rest assured Jefferies are here for you no matter what legal services you may require in the years to come.

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