Literal Rule

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  • Topic: Statutory interpretation, Law, Plain meaning rule
  • Pages : 2 (444 words )
  • Download(s) : 523
  • Published : December 10, 2011
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Using case law illustrations, explain how the literal rule of statutory interpretation operates and how the golden rule modifies the literal rule. Statutory interpretation is the process used by courts to interpret and apply legislation, although Acts of Parliament are written by expert draftsmen, the statute for the case before them may not be clear. Bennion (2005) has identified a number of issues that may cause uncertainty: The draftsman may refrain from using certain words as they think it has already been automatically implied, also the definition of the word can be broad which causes uncertainty ,the wording of the statute can be deficient due to a printing or a drafting error. There are three rules, courts use to interpret statutes, they are known as, The Literal Rule, The Golden Rule and The Mischief Rule. Under The Literal rule, words in a statute are given their plain, ordinary meaning even if it leads to an absurd ending; this was shown in R v City of London Court Judge (1892), Lord Esher said “If the words of an Act are clear you must follow them, even though they lead to manifest absurdity. The court has nothing to do with the question whether the legislature has committed an absurdity”. Another case which illustrates the literal rule is Whitely V Chapell (1868), under a statute it is a offence to impersonate another person who is ‘entitled to vote’ in an election, D had used a dead person’s name to vote in an election, using the literal rule, D was acquitted as a dead person is not ‘entitled to vote.’ If the words used in a statute are ambiguous and lead to an absurd outcome, courts are allowed to modify the meaning to avoid the problem; this is known as The Golden rule. In R V Allen (1872), under s.57 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, it is an offence to 'marry' whilst one's original spouse was still alive and there had been no divorce. The defendant claimed he could not legally marry as he was not divorced, the court held that in the...
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