Statutory Interpretation

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  • Statutory Interpretation
    • Literal Rule
      • Judge gives the words used their plain, ordinary meaning
        • Even if this leads to a manifest absurdity
      • Whiteley V Chappell
        • Offence to impersonate any person 'entitled to vote'
        • Defendant had impersonated someone who was dead but whose name was on the voters list
        • Court found defendant not guilty to due the literal interpretation
          • Defendant had not committed the offence
            • Dead person isnt entitled to vote
      • LNER V Berriman
        • Railway worker had died whilst maintaining (oiling) the lines
        • His widow wanted to claim compensation as the railway company had not provided a look out man
        • Act stated that compensation was only avaliable to those 'relaying or repairing' the tracks
        • Literal interpretation
          • Wife couldnt claim compensation as maintaining the line was not 'relaying or repairing'
    • Mischief Rule
      • Rule comes from Heydon's Case
        • Gives judges more flexibility than the other two rules
      • Court are required to look at what the law was before the act was passed
        • What mischief or problem that act was trying to cover/solve
      • Smith V Hughes
        • Offence for a common prostitute to solicit in the street
        • Under the Literal Rule
          • Prostitutes were not guilty as they were not in the street but at a balcony
        • Court decided the act was passed to stop prostitutes soliciting men in the street
          • It did not mater that the prostitutes themselves were not in the street
        • Guilty under the Mischief Rules
          • They were still creating the mischief that the act was trying to remedy
      • DPP V Bull
        • Wolfenden Report
          • This was made on prostitution
          • After looking at this the court decided that the act did not apply to male prostitutes
        • Act had been passed to remedy a mischief that was caused by female prostitutes
        • Defendant was foud not guilty
    • Golden Rule
      • Extension or modification of the literal rule
      • Narrow Approach
        • Where a word has more than one meaning the court can choose which to follow
        • R V Allen
          • It was an offence to 'marry' someone else whilst still married
          • Marry could have two meanings
            • Become legally married
            • Go through a marriage ceremony
          • Court chose the second meaning in order to find Allen guilty
      • Broader Approach
        • Words have only one clear meaning
          • Following that meaning would lead to a repugnant situation
        • Can use broader approach to avoid following the literal meaning
        • Re Sigsworth
          • A son had murdered his mother
            • She hadnt made a will before her death
          • Act stated that as he next of kin the son should inherit all her money
          • This would allow the son to benefit from his crime
            • This would lead to a repugnant situation
          • Court used the broader approach to not allow him to benefit
    • Purposive Approach
      • This is an extension of the Mischief Rule
      • It is the most flexible rule
      • Allows the judge to decide what as the purpose of the act and what they believe was meant to be achieved by passing that act
      • Royal College of Nursing V DHSS
        • Abortion Act 1967
          • Abortions could only be carried out by doctors
          • As technology improved nurses carried out abortions by administrating a drug
        • Under the Literal Rule these abortions were illegal
        • Court decided the purpose of the act was to prevent 'back street' abortions
        • Nurses werent doing back street abortions
          • These abortions were legal under the purposive approach
      • R V Registrar ex Parte Smith
        • Adoption Act 1976
          • When 18 yrs old, you could have access to birth certificate
          • There was evidence that by doing this the patient would try to kill his natural mother
          • Court said parliament could not have intended for this to happen
          • Used the  Purposive Approach to avoid having to give the defendant access to birth certificate
      • Favoured by the European Courts
        • Championed by Lord Denning

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