Statutory Intepretation

Topics: Statutory interpretation, Golden rule, Plain meaning rule Pages: 9 (3601 words) Published: January 13, 2013
Exam Answers
Question 1
Statutory Interpretations is the process by which Judges interpret Acts of Parliament in cases.75% of cases heard by the Horse Of Lords are concerned with Statutory Interpretation .When it is called upon to deal with a problem of interpretation ,the Court does two things here. Translation is what happens first, here they decide what the word means, then secondly they apply the correct meaning to the situation in question and decide on the results (in terms of the intention of parliament when passing the law. In many instances when we are interpreting words, there will be one obvious meaning, however even with the simplest of words there will be other possible meaning. Therefore to achieve constituency, judges and legal authorities have established guiding principles of interpretation to help them in determining the actual meaning of legislation. These guiding principles are collectively known as the Three Primary Rules of Statutory Interpretation .These are; 1)The Literal Rule 2)The Golden Rule 3)The Mischief Rule. However these rules are not fixed or followed logically, as they are not really rules at all but approaches. The first apptroach is the Literal Rule. This rule States that Words should be constructed according to the their plain , ordinary and literal meaning, regardless of whether it produces an absurd outcome or not. The rule is founded on the assumption that the words used were carefully chosen by Parliament to convey their intentions. Therefore this rule is important for preserving the intention of Parliament and ensuring the democratic parliamentary will is imposed by judges in courts. Lord Diplock in the Duport Steel v Sirs case (1980) defined the rule as “Where the meaning of the statutory words is plain and unambiguous it is not then for the judges to invent fancied ambiguities as an excuse for failing to give effect to it’s plain meaning because they consider the consequences for doing so would be inexpedient, or even unjust or immoral”. This definition says that a judge should not deviate from the literal meaning of the words even if the outcome is unjust. If they do they are creating their own version of how the case should turn out and the will of parliament is contradicted One example of the Literal Rule was the Fisher v Bell case (1960). Under s1 (1) of the Offensive Weapons Act 1959 ‘Any person who manufactures, sells or hires or offers for sale or hire or lends to any person (a) any knife which has a blade which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to the button, spring or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife, sometimes known as “flick knife” shall be guilty of an offence.’ Bristol shopkeeper, James Bell displayed a flick knife bearing a price tag in his shop window. He was charged with the offence of offering the flick knife for sale. However when brought to trial it was concluded that Bell could not be convicted given the literal meaning of the statute. The law of contract states that having an item in a window is not an intention of sale but is an invitation to treat. Given the literal meaning of this statute, Bell could not be convicted. Nevertheless it can be argued that in this case the court did not use the “ordinary common sense meaning of the words” which is what the literal rule is all about , as it would be difficult to see how a man in the street could be convinced that this was not an offer for sale. Therefore it is clear that in this case the literal meaning to be applied was the literal legal contractual meaning to the judges. Despite the Literal Rule being chosen to convey Parliament’s intention and prevent unelected judges making laws, this same rule can again lead to absurd decisions that were clearly not what Parliament intended. One of the more interesting cases to demonstrate the absurd outcomes the Literal rule produces is Whiteley v Chappel (1868). It was an offence under statute on election of Guardians of the...
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