The Literal Rule

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  • Literal Rule
    • Explanation of the rule
      • 'Words or phrases in an Act should take their ordinary, natural or dictionary definitions when interpreted.'
        • Lord Reid: Pinner v Everett
        • Whiteley v Chappell: An offence to impersonate someone who is entitled to vote in an election'
          • Defendant impersonated a dead man. Not 'entitled' to vote. Literally not liable.
        • Fisher v Bell: 'An offence to sell or offer for sale offensive weaponry'
          • To 'sell' interpreted as an 'invitation to treat' which is in turn, actually opened by the customer. Literally the D was not liable.
    • Advantages and Disadvantages
      • Michael Zander: 'Mechanical and divorced from the realities of use of language'
        • Law Commission: 'Ignores the limitations of language'
      • Can produce absurd and unjust results
        • In LNER v Berriman, his wife was not liable because oiling the tracks was not 'track maintenance'.
      • Assumes Parliamentary draftsmen have done their job perfectly
      • Doesn't always give effect to the intentions of Parliament
      • More than one definition to some words
      • Respects Parliamentary sovereignty
      • Law making left to those elected
      • Can highlight, to Parliament, defects in the law
        • Partridge v Crittenden


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