The head of the *Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), who must be a lawyer of at least ten years' general qualification. The DPP is appointed by the *Attorney General and discharges his functions under the superintendence of the Attorney General. The DPP, through the CPS, is responsible for the conduct of all criminal prosecutions instituted by the police and he may intervene in any criminal proceedings when it appears to him to be appropriate. Some statutes require the consent of the DPP to prosecution.
See disabled person.
disability living allowance
A tax-free benefit payable to those under 65 who have had a disability requiring help for at least three months and are likely to need such help for at least a further six months. It has two components; a care component, payable at three rates to those needing help with personal care; and a mobility component, payable at two rates to those aged five or over who need help with walking. The rates depend on the level of help required.
Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, a person who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term effect on his abilities to carry out day-to-day activities. The Act makes it an offence to discriminate unjustifiably against anyone who is disabled. Discrimination occurs when a disabled employee (or interviewee) is treated less favourably by an employer (or potential employer) than someone without a disability, unless the employer can show that the difference in treatment is justified. Thus it is illegal for employers to refuse to employ someone qualified to do a job, simply because that person has, or has had, a physical or mental disability. In addition, employers have a duty to make alterations to premises to aid disabled employees. However, the law does not apply to employers with fewer than 15 employees (i.e. after all staff at all branches are aggregated).
On 5 March 2001 the government announced plans for significant changes to the Disability Discrimination Act. These include removal in 2004 of the small employers' exemption. The shape of any future proposal will be influenced by the need of the British government to comply with the recently issued EC Framework Directive 2000/78, which seeks to implement the extended role of the European Union with respect to the elimination of discrimination.
disabled person's tax credit
An income-related benefit that, under the Tax Credits Act 1999, replaced disability working allowance in October 1999. Administered by the Inland Revenue rather than the Benefits Agency, it is payable to those aged 16 or over who are working 16 or more hours a week, who have a disability that puts them at a disadvantage in obtaining employment, and whose income does not exceed an amount prescribed under statute.
See industrial injuries disablement benefit.
A statute that disqualifies a person or persons of a specified class from exercising a legal right or freedom that he or they would otherwise enjoy.
To expel a barrister from his Inn of Court. The sentence of disbarment is pronounced by the *Benchers of the barrister's Inn, subject to a right of appeal to the judges who act as visitors of all the Inns of Court.
Release from an obligation, debt, or liability, particularly the following.
1. *Discharge of contract.
2. The release of a debtor from all *provable debts (with minor exceptions) at the end of *bankruptcy proceedings. In certain circumstances discharge is automatic. In other cases, the debtor or the official receiver may apply to the court for an order of discharge. This may be subject to conditions, such as further payments by the debtor to his creditors out of his future income, or it may be suspended until the creditors receive a higher proportion of the amount due to them. After discharge the debtor is freed from most of the disabilities to which he was subject as an *undischarged bankrupt.
3. The release of a convicted defendant without imposing a punishment on him. A discharge may be absolute or conditional. In an absolute discharge the defendant is not punished for the offence. His conviction may, however, be accompanied by a *compensation order or by *endorsement of his driving licence or *disqualification from driving. A conditional discharge also releases the defendant without punishment, provided that he is not convicted of any other offence within a specified period (usually three years). If he is convicted within that time, the court may sentence him for the original offence as well. Three conditions are required for the court to order a discharge: (1) that a community rehabilitation order is not appropriate; (2) that the punishment for the offence must not be fixed by law; and (3) that the court thinks it inadvisable to punish the defendant in the circumstances.
discharge of contract
The termination of a contractual obligation. Discharge may take place by: (1) *performance of contract; (2) express agreement, which may involve either *bilateral discharge or unilateral discharge (See accord and satisfaction); (3) *breach of contract; or (4) *frustration of contract.
The refusal or renunciation of a right, claim, or property. A beneficiary under a will that leaves him both a burdensome and a beneficial gift (e.g. a racehorse that never wins and £50) may disclaim the former and take the latter. A company's liquidator may disclaim the company's lease, to avoid liability for the rent and other "onerous" contracts. A trustee may disclaim a trust if he has not yet accepted it; once he has accepted his trusteeship he may no longer disclaim it but he may resign (See retirement of trustees). Trusts and powers are normally disclaimed by deed.
1. (in contract law)
See nondisclosure; uberrimae fidei.
2. (in company law) a. A method of protecting investors that relies on the company disclosing and publishing information, which is then evaluated by the investors, their advisers, and the press.
See also stock exchange. b. A method of regulating the conduct of directors and promoters by requiring them, on *fiduciary principles or by statutory provisions, to disclose to the company any relevant information, e.g. an interest in a contract with the company.
disclosure and inspection of documents
(in court proceedings)
Disclosure by a party to civil litigation of the *documents in his possession, custody, or power relating to matters in question in the action and their subsequent inspection by the opposing party; before the introduction of the *Civil Procedure Rules in 1999, this procedure was called discovery and inspection of documents. For the purposes of disclosure, documents extend beyond paper to include anything upon which information is capable of being recorded and retrieved (e.g. tapes, computer disks). In *small claims track proceedings, the initial disclosure is by a list of documents that the party intends to rely upon. In *fast track and *multi-track proceedings, the lists must include all documents, both those that support the party making the list and those adversely affecting that party, which they would prefer not to disclose. Directions for disclosure generally take place at the *allocation stage or the *case management conference and, unless the court directs or the parties agree otherwise, there will normally be a direction for standard disclosure. This involves a reasonable search by the parties to disclose documents on which that party intends to rely, documents that may be adverse to their own case or another party's case, documents that support another party's case, and documents that are required to be disclosed by any relevant *Practice Direction. Some documents, although they must be disclosed in the list, may be privileged and thus exempted from the subsequent requirement to produce them for inspection (See privilege). Once a party has served a list of documents, the other party, together with any co-defendants, must be allowed to inspect the (nonprivileged) documents referred to in the list within seven days of serving on the first party a written notice requesting inspection. If copies are needed, a further written notice must be served, with an undertaking to meet reasonable copying charges. In the absence of disclosure and/or inspection, the court has power to direct that general or specific disclosure and/or inspection be made.
See also failure to make disclosure; nondisclosure.
disclosure of information
1. (in employment law) The communication by an employer to employees and their trade-union representatives of information relevant to *collective bargaining, proposed redundancies (*redundancy), and the preservation of employees' health and *safety at work. Under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, employers must disclose the following information to the representatives of a recognized *independent trade union.
(1) Information that is essential for the maintenance of good industrial relations or for the formulation of wage and related demands. The duty to disclose this information only arises if the union requests the information. When disclosure would damage national security or harm the business (apart from its effect on collective bargaining), or the information is subjudice or relevant only to particular individuals, disclosure need not be given. Guidelines on disclosure are published by *ACAS (See also Code of Practice). When an employer refuses to disclose essential information, the *Central Arbitration Committee is empowered on the application of the trade union to make awards of wages and conditions that are ultimately enforceable in the courts.
(2) Details of any redundancies proposed by the employer. He must give the union 90 days' notice when 100 or more employees are to be made redundant over a period of 90 days or less, and 30 days' notice when between 20 and 99 redundancy dismissals are proposed within a 90-day period. The employer's notice must specify the reason for his proposals, the numbers and job descriptions of employees involved, the way in which employees have been selected for redundancy, and the procedures for their dismissal. He must consider any representations made by the union, but need not comply with its demands. If the employer fails to give the required notice, the union can apply to an employment tribunal, which may make a *protective award to the redundant employees. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, an employer must give his employees at large such information, instruction, and supervision as will ensure their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable. He must also give copies of any relevant documents to safety representatives appointed by a recognized trade union.
2. (in criminal proceedings)
For criminal proceedings issued after 1 April 1997, the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 sets out detailed rules on disclosures that the prosecution must make to the defence. It must disclose anything that might undermine its case and anything that might assist the defence, but the judgment of what undermines the prosecution or assists the defence remains with the prosecutor. Thus the Act enables the prosecution to decide what information they believe should be disclosed to the defence and, in particular, whether to disclose information about any weakness in their own investigation.
3. See breach of confidence.
disclosure of interest
The duty of local authority members to disclose (at the time or by prior notice to the authority) any pecuniary interest they or their spouses have in any matter discussed at a local authority meeting. They must also abstain from speaking and voting on it. Breach of the duty is a criminal offence.
discontinuance of action
See notice of discontinuance.
(in international law)
A method of acquiring territory in which good title can be gained by claiming previously unclaimed land (terra nullius). In the early days of European exploration it was held that the discovery of a previously unknown land conferred absolute title to it upon the state by whose agents the discovery was made. However, it has now long been established that the bare fact of discovery is an insufficient ground of proprietary right.
discovery and inspection of documents
See disclosure and inspection of documents.
See judicial discretion.
discretionary area of judgment
A concept used in some cases in the domestic courts when reviewing decisions of public authorities under the *European Convention on Human Rights. The concept allows the courts to defer on democratic grounds to the decisions of elected bodies. It follows from the fact that the concept of the *margin of appreciation is not applicable in the domestic courts.
A trust under which the trustees are given discretion as to who, within a class chosen by the settlor, should receive trust property and how much each should receive. A settlor must give some indication as to the limits of the class of people he intends to benefit, but the trustees do not need to have an exhaustive list. A beneficiary under a discretionary trust has no enforceable right to any part of the property or its income, although the trustees must consider his claims together with those of the other beneficiaries. Such trusts are often very difficult to distinguish from *trust powers and *powers of appointment held by *trustees. Discretionary trusts have been invaluable in planning to mitigate liability to tax, but recent fiscal legislation has reduced their advantages.
Treating one or more members of a specified group unfairly as compared with other people. Discrimination may be illegal on the ground of sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability, or nationality.
See also disabled person; human rights act; positive discrimination; racial discrimination; sex discrimination.
A deed used to bar (convert into a *fee simple) an *entailed interest.
The barring of an *entailed interest.
An element of liability in *theft, *abstracting electricity, *deception, *handling stolen goods, and some related offences. To convict of such offences the magistrates or jury must be satisfied that what was done was dishonest by the standards of ordinary decent people and that the defendant realized this at the time.
(in commercial law)
Failure to honour a bill of exchange. This may be by nonacceptance, when a bill of exchange is presented for *acceptance and this is refused or cannot be obtained (or when *presentment for acceptance is excused and the bill is not accepted); or by nonpayment, when the bill is presented for payment and payment is refused or cannot be obtained (or when presentment is excused and the bill is overdue and unpaid). In both cases the holder has an immediate right of recourse against the drawer and endorsers, but *foreign bills that have been dishonoured must first be protested (See protest).
See also notice of dishonour.
(in employment law)
The termination of an employee's contract of employment by the employer. An employer usually dismisses the employee by giving him the required period of *notice, but dismissal without notice may be justified in certain circumstances (e.g. for gross misconduct). An employer's failure to renew a fixed-term employment contract also counts as dismissal. An employee having the required length of service in the business (See continuous employment) can apply to an employment tribunal if he is unfairly dismissed (See unfair dismissal); the tribunal can order his *reinstatement or *re-engagement or can award him *compensation. An employee dismissed for *redundancy after two years' continuous employment in the business is entitled to a *redundancy payment under the Employment Rights Act 1996. An employee dismissed without due notice or before his fixed-term contract expires can also claim damages in the courts for wrongful dismissal.
See also statement of reasons for dismissal.
dismissal of action
The termination of a civil action in favour of the defendant. An order for dismissal of action may be made at the conclusion of the trial, but is usually made during the **interim proceedings (*interlocutory proceedings); for example, for breach of some rule of procedure. Dismissal for want of prosecution occurs if the claimant has been guilty of inordinate and inexcusable delay in circumstances in which there is a risk that a fair trial is no longer possible or in which there has been prejudice to the defendant. This type of dismissal is now rare under the heavily case-managed procedure prescribed by the Civil Procedure Rules.
dismissal procedures agreement
A collective agreement containing provisions relating to the dismissal of employees and intended to replace the statutory provisions concerning *unfair dismissal.
See also collective bargaining.
See statement of reasons for dismissal.
A *brothel or a place staging performances or exhibitions that tend to corrupt or deprave and outrage common decency. It is a misdemeanour at common law to keep a disorderly house.
disparagement of goods
See slander of goods.
disposal of uncollected goods
The sale by a bailee of goods in his possession or under his control when the bailor is in breach of an obligation to collect them (See bailment). When the original contract does not require the bailor to collect the goods, the bailee may, by giving notice, impose such an obligation. The relevant statutory provisions in the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 lay down conditions relating to the giving of notice of the bailee's intention to sell, allowing the bailor a reasonable opportunity to collect. The bailee should adopt the best method of sale available and must account to the bailor for the proceeds of sale less any sum due before he gave notice of intention to sell. There is provision for a bailee to have a sale authorized by a court.
1. (in land law) The transfer of property by some act of its owner, e.g. by sale, gift, will, or exchange.
2. (in the law of evidence) The tendency of a party (especially the accused) to act or think in a particular way. Evidence of the accused's disposition may generally not be given unless it is based upon admissible evidence of character or admissible *similar-fact evidence. Evidence of *previous convictions, other than those admitted as similar-fact evidence or under the Criminal Evidence Acts, may tend to suggest to the *trier of fact that the accused has a particular disposition, but is technically admissible only on the question of his credibility.
See also character.
Depriving someone of a right because he has committed a criminal offence or failed to comply with specified conditions. Disqualification is usually imposed in relation to activities requiring a licence, and in particular for traffic offences. In the case of many traffic offences, the court has discretion to disqualify drivers for a stated period. There are also a number of traffic offences for which disqualification for at least 12 months is compulsory (unless the offender can show special reasons relating to the circumstances of the offence, not to his personal circumstances). These offences are:
(2) *causing death by dangerous driving (the minimum disqualification period here is two years);
(3) *causing death by careless driving;
(4) *dangerous driving;
(5) driving or attempting to drive while unfit;
(6) driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol in the breath, blood, or urine (See drunken driving);
(7) failure (in certain cases) to provide a specimen of breath, blood, or urine (*specimen of breath, *specimen of blood, *specimen of urine);
(8) racing or speed trials on the highway.
If a person is convicted for a second time within ten years of a driving offence involving drink or drugs, he must be disqualified for at least three years. The courts may also disqualify anyone who commits an indictable offence of any kind involving the use of a car. There is also a totting-up system (*totting up) of endorsements, which can result in disqualification. When someone is disqualified from driving, his licence will usually also be endorsed with details of the offence (but not with any penalty points for the purpose of totting up). The court may also make a *driving-test order. A person who has been disqualified from driving may apply to have the disqualification removed after two years or half the period of disqualification (whichever is longer) or, when he has been disqualified for ten years or more, after five years.
See also driving while disqualified.
1. The legal termination of a marriage; for example, by a decree of divorce, nullity, or presumption of death.
2. The dissolving of a *registered company. This can be achieved by *winding-up or by the Registrar of Companies striking it off the companies register as "defunct", because he has reasonable cause to believe that the company is no longer carrying on business or has failed to file accounts. The company can be restored to register subsequently on application by petition and payment of the relevant fee. 3.
The sale of goods or services to a consumer in which the parties do not meet, such as sale by mail order, telephone, digital TV, email, or the Internet. The EU distance selling directive 976/7, implemented from October 2000 in the UK by the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000, contains the relevant law. In particular, consumers have rights to certain information about the contract to be entered into and, in many cases, the right to cancel the contract within a certain period, often seven working days from the day after receipt of the goods. The right applies whether the goods are defective or not, but it does not apply in certain important categories (such as auctions, betting, goods specifically made for a consumer, and food that will deteriorate).
distinguishing a case
The process of providing reasons for deciding a case under consideration differently from a similar case referred to as a *precedent.
distortion of competition
See Article 81.
To seize goods by way of *distress.
The seizure of goods as security for the performance of an obligation. The two principal situations covered by the remedy of distress are (1) between landlord and tenant when the rent is in arrears (See distress for rent); and (2) when goods are unlawfully on an occupier's land and have done or are doing damage (See also distress damage feasant). In the latter case the occupier may detain the chattel until compensation is paid for the damage.
distress damage feasant
A right to detain animals found doing damage on one's land as security for compensation. This right was abolished in England by the Animals Act 1971 and replaced by a statutory power to detain and ultimately to sell the animals. The statutory power is subject to detailed requirements of giving notice of detention and taking care of the animals.
distress for rent
The seizing of a tenant's goods by the landlord to secure payment of rent arrears. If the tenant fails to pay the rent arrears after distress has been levied, the landlord may sell the goods and keep the amount due. In the case of an *assured, *protected, or *statutory tenancy the landlord must obtain a court's permission before levying distress. In 1986 the *Law Commission recommended abolition of distress.
See sending distressing letters.
1. The process of handing over to the beneficiaries their entitlements under a deceased person's will or on his intestacy.
2. Any payment made by a company to a shareholder out of its distributable profits in cash or kind. It does not include payments made in the course of a winding-up or repayments of the capital originally subscribed or subsequently received by the company.
See also qualifying distribution.
A *local government area in England (outside Greater London) consisting of a division of a *county. The Local Government Act 1972 divided the 6 metropolitan and 39 nonmetropolitan counties in England into 36 metropolitan and 296 nonmetropolitan districts, respectively, and the 8 counties in Wales into 37 districts. The 6 metropolitan counties were abolished by the Local Government Act 1985 and their functions transferred generally to the metropolitan district councils, which became single-tier authorities. A district may be styled a borough by royal charter granted on the petition of the *district council. The Welsh counties and districts were abolished by the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994, being replaced on 1 April 1996 by 22 unitary authorities (*unitary authority) (11 counties and 11 county boroughs). Unitary authorities have been phased in in certain nonmetropolitan areas of England.
See also Local Government Commission for England.
Civil servants who audited the accounts of all local authorities except those who chose audit by approved commercial accountants. Originally established under the Local Government Finance Act 1982 and now consolidated under the Audit Commission Act 1998, the Audit Commission was established to take responsibility for local authority audits. District auditors are now officials of the Audit Commission, but modern practice is to appoint independent approved auditors from private firms of accountants. If any transaction involved unlawful expenditure, they may obtain a court order for repayment by the persons responsible.
A *local authority whose area is a *district. A district council has certain exclusive responsibilities (e.g. housing and local planning) and shares others (e.g. recreation, town and country planning) with the council of the county to which the district belongs. Some responsibilities (e.g. education and the personal social services) belong to the district council if the district is metropolitan, but to the county council if it is not. If a district has the style of borough, its council is called a borough council and its chairman the mayor. The *Local Government Commission for England began work in 1992 on a review of local authorities with a view to establishing unitary (single-tier) authorities (*unitary authority; single-tier authority). This has led to wider powers for district councils and to some amalgamations and boundary revision.
District Health Authorities
See national health service.
In the county courts, a judicial officer appointed by the Lord Chancellor from solicitors of not less than seven years' standing. The district judge supervises interim (interlocutory) and post-judgment stages of the case, but can also try cases within a financial limit defined by statute. District judges were formerly known as district registrars.
district judge (magistrates' court) A barrister or solicitor of not less than seven years' standing, appointed by the Lord Chancellor to sit in a magistrates' court on a full-time salaried basis: formerly (before August 2000) called a stipendiary magistrate. Metropolitan district judges (magistrates' court) sit in magistrates' courts for Inner London; other magistrates sit in large provincial centres. They have power to perform any act and to exercise alone any jurisdiction that can be performed or exercised by two justices of the peace, except the grant or transfer of any licence. In other respects their powers are the same as other justices.
An office of the High Court outside London, corresponding in function to the *Central Office; however, only a limited number of district registries exercise full powers in relation to proceedings in the *Chancery Division. There are district registries in all major towns and cities in England and Wales.
(Latin: that you distrain)
A writ, now obsolete, commanding the sheriff to distrain on a person for a certain purpose. In modern practice it has been replaced by a *stop notice, sometimes called a notice in lieu of distringas, which prevents dealings in securities that are subject to a *charging order.
1. The infringement of a right, e.g. the obstruction of a right of way.
2. The removal of a person's rights under a statutory power. For example, compensation for disturbance may be payable to a landowner if his land is compulsorily acquired by a local authority.