University of London
Common Law Reasoning and Institutions
“The Human Rights Act has revolutionised the way in which judges interpret statutes.”
The statute is a piece of legislature that is set out by Parliament to legislate the laws of United Kingdom to be used by the courts in legal proceedings. Though written by the Parliament, the duty to interpret and apply the statutes fall on the courts, more specifically the judges to enact the statute and interpret it to suit the proceedings. Thus in other words, the duty to interpret statutes fall within the responsibilities of the judge. To help with the interpretation of statutes, the Parliament has passed the Interpretation Act 1978, but it is of not much use as it only provides standard definitions of common provisions and not notes for interpretation. Thus, the judges have took up the responsibility to create rules of interpretation, which are not really rules but are different approach to interpret statutes which are created by Parliament. For example, the literal rule is used to interpret a statute to its literal meaning which is stated. Then we have the golden rule, which is used to interpret the statute, if meaning is construed through the literal meaning, to alter the meaning to not be absurd, as the will of Parliament. The third rule is the mischief rule, as laid down in Heydon's Case  EWHC Exch J36 stated that for the true interpretation of a statute, four things are to be considered, where the first is what was the common law before enactment of the Act, the second is what the mischief and defect for which the common law did not adequately deal, the third being the remedy Parliament resolved and appointed to cure the defect caused and the fourth is the true reason of the remedy. Thus by considering this four points, the judge will then interpret a statute in such a way to suppress the mischief and advance the remedy. The idea behind the purposive approach is to give effect to the intention or purpose of the statute, as seen in the case law of Pepper v Hart  3 W.L.R. 1032, whereby the courts consulted Hansard which overturned the previous decision of the House of Lords are encouraged to interpret with the same manner as the European Union Law which are compatible with the Human Rights Convention.
The United Kingdom (UK) helped in drafting the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) 1950 which was binding internationally with the European Unions for over half a century. Though so, the Convention was not part of UK law, thus, usage of the Convention meant going to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, which is time-consuming. The Labour party which was the opposition party used the Human Rights as a gateway to gain the Parliament and when won, published the “Rights Brought Home” manifesto which in the 2nd October 2000, the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998 was made which contained rights from the ECHR, which complies with the UK legislature.
The relevant sections of HRA that has revamped the way judges interpret legislatures are s.2, s.3, s.4, s.6 and s.10. HRA,s.2 provides that the judges have to take into account judgements of ECtHR before coming to a judgement. Though so, decisions of European Court of Justice (ECJ) are more of a guideline rather than binding by the UK courts. HRA, s.3 legislates that the primary and subordinate legislations must be applied with compliance with the ECHR as far as possible whereas, HRA, s.4(2) legislates wherever the legislation is not interpretable to comply with ECHR, certain courts like the High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court has the power to declare incompatibility on the piece of legislation. In order to override the declaration of incompatibility by HRA, s.4 (2), the HRA, s.10 provides a fast track legislative procedure which is designed in removing the incompatibility...
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