Law Reform

Law reform is one of the main functions of the Department. The Criminal Law Reform Division and the Civil Law Reform Division have responsibility for the implementation of the Department’s legislative programme, which is designed to give effect to the Government’s legislation programme.


Criminal Law Reform Division

We are responsible for advising the Minister and the Government in the development of policy on criminal law reform needed to meet political commitments or fulfil domestic or international legal obligations falling within the Minister’s remit, as well as drawing up any subsequent legislative proposals for approval by Government. This involves keeping the criminal law under review so as to identify potential reforms for consideration by Government. As part of this process, we engage in and promote research and assess reports or submissions from advisory or research bodies, notably from the Law Reform Commission and consult with relevant interests. It also involves us in close co-operation with relevant departments in relation to policy development, and the implementation and monitoring of legislation and international instruments.

Civil Law Reform

The Civil Law Reform Division has the function of preparing laws relating to civil (.i.e. non-criminal) law that does not come within the functional remit of any other specific department, as well as servicing the legislative needs of other divisions within the Department. We keep areas of the civil law under review so as to identify the potential for reform. In addition, staff of the division participate in international meetings at the European Union, Council of Europe and United Nations in relation to civil law matters dealing with the drawing up of agreements, treaties and other international instruments on matters of mutual interest. The European Judicial Network in civil and commerical matters provides user-friendly access to information concerning some EU civil law instruments. We are also responsible for the preparation of legislation to give effect in the state to those instruments.

The website of the Hague Conference on Private International Law contains details of international conventions on various matters, including the 1980  Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the 2005 Choice of Court Convention and a draft Convention on Maintenance Obligations. 

The division also has responsibility for the liaison and mutual co-operation with other countries in regard to international child abduction and maintenance recovery.


In this section, find out about: