Outdated and unclear laws governing misconduct in public office should be reformed, the Law Commission has announced today [4 December 2020]. The reforms would introduce two new statutory offences to replace the ancient common law offence, provide greater clarity, and target the most serious forms of misconduct in public office.
There has been an increase in the number of prosecutions for misconduct in public office in recent years, rising from single figures in the early 2000s to averaging more than 80 per year since 2006. In 2018 (the last available figures), there were 95 prosecutions.
The current common law offence of misconduct in public office has existed for hundreds of years. However, as the number of prosecutions has risen in recent decades, so have the calls to reform the law. The most commonly expressed concern is that the offence lacks clarity and precision. This creates the potential for misuse and