The Platinum Jubilee – 70 Years of Legal Progress
This week marks the beginning of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee.
Throughout her 70 year reign, Queen Elizabeth II has witnessed incredible social, political, scientific and technological change, while remaining a constant and stabilising presence for the whole United Kingdom.
The law and legal practice has also seen dramatic change and progress over the last seven decades, with landmark cases and major legislation affecting everyday life for people across the country.
Before we crack open the champagne and celebrate with the nation, Bell Lamb & Joynson explores and reflects on the crucial legal milestones that have shaped our country since the accession in 1952.
1952: Princess Elizabeth becomes Queen Elizabeth II
The Queen ascends to the throne of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms, becoming the head of the Church of England, the Government and the Courts.
“I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine. Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.” she pledges at her Coronation.
By this point, Bell Lamb & Joynson is already 131 years old.
1964: Death Penalty Suspended
1964 saw the last state execution in the UK and capital punishment for murder is abolished in 1969. Treason remains a crime punishable by death until 1998, over thirty years since the last state execution takes place.
1965: Race Relations Act
In 1965, the Race Relations Act becomes the first piece of legislation to ban racial discrimination in public places across the UK, making the promotion of hate based on colour, ethnicity, or national origin a prosecutable offence. Also established is the Race Relations Board, an organisation tasked with dealing with racial discrimination cases.
1969: Divorce Reform
The Divorce Reform Act is introduced, enabling couples to automatically divorce after a two year separation period. The separation period gives couples breathing room and an opportunity to later reconcile without having dissolved the marriage.
In 2020, the Act was replaced by the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, a revolutionary piece of legislation that gives couples the opportunity to pursue to “no-fault” divorce.
1975: Sex Discrimination Act
For the first time, discrimination based on sex or marital status becomes illegal - levelling the playing field for women in areas including employment, education, training and housing etc.
It was also the first law to guarantee the right of equal pay for women and declared that job advertisements must be sexless unless the company employs fewer than five people.
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) is established to promote equality and monitor possible acts of exclusion.
1980: Right to Buy
The Housing Act becomes one of Margaret Thatcher’s flagship policies, giving council house tenants the opportunity to buy the house they lived in, making homeownership a reality for millions of people.
Nearly five million council houses are made available to buy, and within ten years, homeownership in the UK grows from 55% to 67%.
1990: The World Wide Web is born
Few could imagine the scale and impact the world wide web would have on our lives when it is invented by Tim Berners-Lee, now Sir Tim Berners-Lee, in 1990. Slowly but surely, the world wide web paves the way for a digital transformation boom later in the early 2000s.
By now, the web is used by billions of people across the world every day - including Bell Lamb & Joynson whose award-winning work and excellent customer experiences are driven by forward-thinking technical adoption.
1995: Disability Discrimination Act
This act of the parliament introduced laws and regulations prohibiting the discrimination of impaired people regarding employment, the provision of goods, facilities and services, or the disposal or management of premises.
1998: Human Rights
The foundations are laid for the Human Rights Act which came into force at the beginning of the new millennia in October 2000, setting out rights that were laid out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into British law.
2004: Civil Partnerships
Introduced by the Labour government in 2004, the Civil Partnership Act allows same-sex couples to enter civil partnerships that have the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. A change to the legislation in 2019 also allowed opposite-sex couples to enter civil partnerships.
Civil partners are able to exercise parental responsibility for their partner’s child, as well as life insurance recognition, tenancy rights, next-of-kin rights in hospital and pension benefits.
The Equality Act introduced in 2010 brought together 116 different pieces of legislation into one single Act. It combined different laws concerning work, discrimination, disability, etc. under a single and comprehensive law.
The act also explicitly states that Politicians and Ministers of the Crown must make their strategic decision aiming at reducing socio-economic inequalities.
2013: Help to Buy
Introduced by George Osbourne, the help to buy scheme was launched to help first-time buyers onto the housing ladder, by providing financial support to buy new-build properties.
The first phase was rolled out in April 2013, and the second in October of the same year. Since the launch, over 320,00 homes have been purchased through the scheme.
2014: Same-Sex Marriages
Legislation allowing same-sex marriage in England and Wales was passed in July 2013 and was brought into law in March 2014, with the first gay marriage taking place on 29th March 2014. Previously, same-sex couples were only able to enter civil partnerships.
The United Kingdom voted in favour of leaving the European Union, beginning a process of political unrest, law changes and international negotiations that take years to resolve.
2018: Rule on Removing Life Support
In July 2018, a decision was made by the Supreme Court ruling that families and doctors of patients in vegetative states were able to remove feeding tubes if both parties were in agreement, without having to apply to the Court of Protection, saving families from the expense and emotional pain of long and complex court processes.