I studied law for a year back when I was in school and I remember the teaching talking about reviewing laws and specifically, "where the actual effect of the law (today) no longer represents the intent of the law when it was originally passed"... Does anyone know the specific legal / latin phrase for this legal principle please? (I'm fairly sure my teacher referenced one at the time, but can't remember it now)

Thanks in advance!


Centuries ago (before plumbing and sewers), people would throw their waste out of their window into the street below, usually on a Sunday. After various 'unpleasant incidents' a law was passed making it illegal to "stick your head out of the window on Sundays"... With the introduction of sewers and toilets, people stopped throwing their waste out of the windows, however the law stayed for many years afterwards.

Many years later, a young woman stuck her head out of the window on a Sunday and an over-zealous police officer arrested her for 'breaking the law'. The woman was naturally completely perplexed and could not understand what she had done wrong, or why it was illegal to stick her head out of the window as this sounded preposterous.

The case was brought before a judge, however the judge dismissed it because...
• The act: sticking your head out of the window
• No longer reflected the intent / spirit behind the law: stopping people from getting covered in human excrement

NB: My teacher used the example above to demonstrate the legal principle... It is correct to the best of my recollection, but please forgive if erroneous as it was many years ago (and also not impossible that my teacher made this story up as a teaching aid).

1 Answer 1


cessante ratione legis cessat ipsa lex

Be aware that, if this is your argument, you’re probably going to lose.

  • Is an implied recommendation to not use a certain legal strategy giving advice? May 27, 2023 at 15:07

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