English Law Dictionary starting from page 1 to 3

abandonment n.  1. The act of giving up a legal right, particularly a right of

ownership of property. Property that has been abandoned is res nullius (a thing

belonging to no one), and a person taking possession of it therefore acquires a

lawful title. An item is regarded as abandoned when it can be established that the

original owner has discarded it and is indifferent as to what becomes of it: such an

item cannot be the subject of a theft charge. However, property placed by its owner

in a dustbin is not abandoned, having been placed there for the purpose of being

collected as refuse. In marine insurance, abandonment is the surrender of all rights

to a ship or cargo in a case of *constructive total loss. The insured person must do

this by giving the insurer within a reasonable time a notice of abandonment, by

which he relinquishes all his rights to the ship or cargo to the insurer and can treat

the loss as if it were an actual total loss. 2. In civil litigation, the relinquishing of

the whole or part of the claim made in an action or of an appeal. Any claim is now

considered to be abandoned once a *notice of discontinuance is served, according to

rule 38 (1) of the *Civil Procedure Rules.  3. The offence of a parent or guardian

leaving a child under the age of 16 to its fate. A child is not regarded as abandoned

if the parent knows and approves steps  someone else is taking to look after it. The

court may allow a child to be adopted without the consent of its parents if they are

guilty of abandonment.

abatement n.  1. (of debts) The proportionate reduction in the payment of debts

that takes place if a person’s assets are insufficient to settle with his creditors in

full.      2. (of legacies) The reduction or cancellation of legacies when the estate is

insufficient to cover all the legacies provided for in the will or on intestacy after

payment of the deceased’s debts. The Administration of Estates Act 1925 provides

that general legacies, unless given to satisfy a debt or for other consideration, abate

in proportion to the amounts of those legacies; specific and demonstrative legacies

then abate if the estate is still insufficient to pay all debts, and a demonstrative

legacy also abates if the specified fund is insufficient to cover it. For example, A’s

estate may comprise a painting, £300 in his savings account, and £700 in other

money; there are debts of £100 but his will leaves the painting to B, £500 from the

savings account to C. £800 to D, and £200 to E. B will receive the painting, C’s

demonstrative legacy abates to £300, and after the debts are paid from the

remaining £700, D’s and  E’s general legacies abate proportionately, to £480 and £120

respectively. When annuities are given by the will, the general rule is that they are

valued at the date of the testator’s death, then abate proportionately in accordance

with that valuation, and each annuitant receives the abated sum. All these rules are

subject to any contrary intention being expressed in the will.          3. (in land law) Any

reduction or cancellation of money payable. For example a lease may provide for an

abatement of rent in certain circumstances, e.g. if the building is destroyed by fire,

and a purchaser of land may claim an abatement of the price if the seller can prove

his ownership of only part of the land he contracted to sell. 4. (of nuisances) The

termination, removal, or destruction of a *nuisance. A person injured by a nuisance

has a right to abate it. In doing so, he must not do more damage than is necessary

and, if removal of the nuisance requires entry on to the property from which it

emanates, he may have to give notice to the wrongdoer. A local authority can issue

an abatement notice to control statutory nuisances.  5. (of proceedings) The termination of civil proceedings by operation of law, caused by a change of interest or status (e.g. bankruptcy or death) of one of the parties after the start but before the completion of the proceedings. An abatement did not prevent either of the parties from bringing fresh proceedings in respect of the same cause of action. Pleas in abatement have been abolished; in modern practice any change of interest or status of the parties does not affect the validity of the proceedings, provided that the cause of action survives.

abduction n. The offence of taking an unmarried girl under the age of 16 fromthe possession of her parents or guardians against their will. It is no defence that the girl looked and acted as if she was over 16 or that she was a willing party. No sexual motive has to be proved. It is also an offence to abduct an unmarried girl under the age of 18 or a mentally defective woman (married or unmarried) for the purpose of unlawful sexual intercourse. In this case a defendant can plead that he had reasonable grounds for believing that the girl was over 18, or that he did not know the woman was mentally defective, respectively. It is also an offence to abduct any woman with the intention that she should marry or have unlawful sexual intercourse with someone, if it is done by force or for the sake of her property. It is also an offence for a parent or guardian of a child under 16 to take or send him out of the UK without the consent of the other parent or guardians. Belief that the other person has or would have consented is a defence. It is also an offence for any other person to remove or keep such a child, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, from the person with lawful control of him. Proof of belief that the child was 16 is a defence here. See also KIDNAPPING.

abet vb.  See AID  AND  ABET.

abortion n. The termination of a pregnancy: a miscarriage or the prematureexpulsion of a foetus from the womb before the normal period of gestation is complete. It is an offence to induce or attempt to induce an abortion unless the terms of the Abortion Act 1967 and the Abortion Regulations 1991 are complied with. The pregnancy can only be terminated by a registered medical practitioner, and two registered medical practitioners must agree that it is necessary, for example because

  • continuation of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life or physical or mental health of the pregnant woman (or of other children of hers) that is greater than the risk of terminating the pregnancy, or (2) that there is a substantial risk that the child will be born with a serious physical or mental handicap. However, doctors are not obliged to perform abortions if they can prove that they have a conscientious objection to so doing. A husband cannot prevent his wife having a legal abortion if she so wishes. Compare CHILD DESTRUCTION.
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