This process is used by judges in the courts when there is a dispute or being uncertain over the meaning of words or phrases in an Act of Parliament or piece of delegated legislation. The courts role is to find out how Parliament intended the law to apply and carry this out. The interpretation may form a precedent for future cases. Statutory interpretation can become a problem due to:
The complexity of the English language a word may have several meaning, which can lead to ambiguity. The meanings of words can change over periods of time.
The legislation may have been made very quickly in response to public reaction and the wording may not be as precise as it should be, for example the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. The original bill may contain errors in the drafting. Parliament may not notice this, especially if there are many amendments during the bill’s passage through all its parliamentary stage. Judges can use three main rules in interpretation Acts of Parliament: The literal rule
The golden rule
The mischief rule
These are not rules as such, but they are different ways or approaching the interpretation of a statute. Each individual judge decides which particular rule to use in particular cases. The Literal Rule
This rule is used as it is the best way to determine the intention of Parliament, when interpreting a statute, is to give the words used their grammatical, ordinary, everyday or dictionary meaning even if this produces an absurd result. The literal rule was used in a case called Whiteley V Chappell in 1968. In this case the defendant was charged with the offence of impersonating ‘any person entitled to vote’ at an election. The defendant was acquitted because he impersonated a dead person who was not entitled to vote. This rule was also led to unfair a harsh decisions. For example in the case London and North Eastern Railway Co v Berriman in 1946. In this case Mrs Berriman was unable to collect any compensation because...
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