Implied repeal

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The doctrine of implied repeal is a concept in constitutional theory which states that where an Act of Parliament or an Act of Congress (or of some other legislature in a common law system) conflicts with an earlier one, the later Act takes precedence and the conflicting parts of the earlier Act becomes legally inoperable. This doctrine is expressed in the Latin phrase "leges posteriores priores contrarias abrogant".

Implied repeal is to be contrasted with the express repeal of legislation by the legislative body.

Under United States law, "implied repeal" is a disfavored doctrine. That is, if a court can reconcile the two statutes with any reasonable interpretation, that interpretation is preferred to one that treats the earlier statute as invalidated by the later one.[1]

In the United Kingdom[edit]

In the 2002 English case Thoburn v Sunderland City Council (the so-called 'Metric Martyrs' case), Lord Justice Laws expressed the view that some constitutionally significant statutes held a higher status in UK law and may perhaps not be subject to the doctrine of implied repeal. The case specifically dealt with s.2(2) of the European Communities Act, but in his judgment Lord Justice Laws also expressed the view that the Parliament Act and the Human Rights Act are 'constitutional statutes' and in his opinion may not be subject to the doctrine of implied repeal.

A decade later in 2012, in a case before the United Kingdom Supreme Court, BH v The Lord Advocate (Scotland),[2] Lord Hope expressed the opinion (in Paragraph 30 of the judgment) that "the Scotland Act can only be expressly repealed; it cannot be impliedly repealed; that is because of its 'fundamental constitutional nature'."[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See Stop Youth Addiction, Inc. v. Lucky Stores, Inc., 950 P.2d 1086, 1096 (Cal. 1998) (recalling that to overcome the strong presumption against implicit repeal the two provisions must be so inconsistent that they cannot have concurrent operation).
  2. ^ [2012] UKSC 24
  3. ^ Adam Perry and Farrah Ahmed: Are Constitutional Statutes 'Quasi-Entrenched'? Blog of the UK Constitutional Law Association