Statutory Interpretation

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  • Statutory Interpretation
    • The Golden Rule
      • Used in cases where The Literal Rule produces an unjust or absurd result; this is why it is often referred to as an 'escape route'.
      • Grey V Pearson stated "the grammatical and ordinary sense of the words may be modified so as to avoid that absurdity and inconsistency, but not farther."
      • Two views have developed on how far The Golden Rule should be used: the narrow approach and the wide approach
        • The narrow approach: where the words of a statute are ambiguous and it's difficult to see which meaning is appropriate, the court may choose between them to reach a sensible outcome
        • The wide approach: where words only have one meaning but to give them that meaning would be wholly unacceptable then the court can ignore the plain meaning of the words to avoid the unacceptable outcome
      • CASE: R V ALLEN 1872 (NARROW)
        • Allen married again even though his spouse was still alive and there has been no divorce, Allen was found guilty under the golden rule because parliament's intentions were to stop anybody getting married to somebody whilst still being married.
        • The defendant had obstructed HM forces actually in the prohibited place; he protested within a RAF base. He was found guilty under the golden rule because it would be absurd for a person to be guilty of 'being in the vicinity' and not if they were actually in the place.
        • Sigsworth murdered his mother, she hadn't made a will, meaning her estate would be inherited by her next of kin (him). Under the golden rule he was entitled to nothing as an application of the literal rule would lead to a repugnant result.
      • ADVANTAGE: 1) prevents absurd results 2) provides an 'escape route' 3) still respects parliament's intentions (narrow)       4) closes loop holes within the law         5) deals with the ambiguity of words       6) prevents bad law being embedded into the legal system
      • DISADVANTAGE:            1) the wide approach doesn't respect parliamentary sovereignty  2) seen as a feeble parachute because it doesn't lend itself to every situation        3) no clear rules on when to use he rule 4) there's no definition of what an absurd result is
    • The Mischief Rule
      • When applying this rule to a case, the judge must look at what the law was before it was passed in order to find the gap (mischief) for which it was intended to cover
      • The definition was provided in Heydon's case where it was said that there was 4 points to consider in its application 1) what was the common law before the act? 2) What was the mischief and defect for which the common law did't provide? 3) What was the remedy parliament passes to cure the mischief? 4) What was the true reason for the remedy?
        • A taxi driver was charged with 'plying for hire in any street' without a licence (the taxi was parked on a taxi rank on the station forecourt. He was found guilty, although it was on private land due to similar circumstances to Smith V Hughes; stopping innocent customers paying from an unlicensed driver
      • CASE: SMITH V HUGHES 1960
        • 6 prostitutes were arrested for trying to attract customers by trying to signal the men from their balconies and windows. The court found that they were guilty of 'loitering and soliciting in a street or public place' because the original act was passed to clean up the streets
        • Nurses and midwives wanted to know if they were acting lawfully when assisting/ carrying out abortions. The nurses were allowed to be considered of the same status as a doctor because the law was initially passed to prevent backstreet, unsafe abortions
      • ADVANTAGE: 1) avoids absurdity and 'repairs' bad law                 2) reforms and improves the law as each case is interpreted so as to avoid the mischief behind the act 3) some judges would argue that they are respecting parliament by giving effect to their true intentions
      • DISADVANT-AGES: 1) the rule dates back to the 16th century where the acts passes would have been less complex, this makes the rule less suited to modern legislation       2) It must be possible to discover the mischief. There will be less extrinsic material available of older acts making it harder to find the mischief  3) the rule allows for judicial law making


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