• Words are an imperfect means of communication
• Words very often have more than one meaning i.e. they can be ambiguous
• A broad term may be used in a statute which can give rise to confusion and uncertainty
• There may be errors or omissions when the statute is drafted
• New developments in society can make the words used in a statute out of date and they may no longer cover the current situation
The Rules of Interpretation
The Literal Rule
This uses the plain, ordinary, literal, grammatical meaning of the words in the statute.
• Whiteley v Chappell (1868) Where someone impersonated a dead person in order to vote at an election
• Fisher v Bell (1960) Where the legal meaning of the words were used to interpret a statute
• R v Judge of the City of London Court (1892) 'If the words of an Act are clear, then you must follow them, even though they lead to a manifest absurdity'
The Golden Rule
If the use of the Literal Rule would lead to an absurdity then the Golden Rule may be used.
There are two applications of the Golden Rule
The Narrow Application
Where words are capable of having more than one meaning the meaning which is least absurd should be used R v Allen (1872)
The Wider Application
This is used to avoid a repugnant result Re Sigsworth (1935)
The Mischief Rule
This was first used in Heydon's Case (1584). The courts looks for the mischief the statute was passed to stop Smith v Hughes (1960)
The Literal verus the Purposive approaches to Statutory Interpretation
Should judges interpret statutes so as to give effect to the intention or purpose of the statute, the purposive approach, or should judges take the literal meaning of the words in a statute, the literal approach?
Arguments in favour of the literal approach
• Judges should give words their literal meaning, their job to not to make the law but to apply it
• The litreral... [continues]
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