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Statutory Interpretation
The interpretation of Acts of Parliament by the judges
Some words and provisions in the `legislations/statutes' may
be ambiguous (having several possible meanings or
interpretations) or may be unclear.
Sometimes an Act may be deliberately drafted in broad
terms to allow the Act to be flexible.
The judge may require interpreting the
Act/Legislation/Statute so as to provide for an appropriate
outcome in the case before the judge (statutory interpretation).
These `rules' have been developed by judges themselves.
A judge will make certain presumptions are that Acts of
Parliament are not retrospective (they only apply to situations
arising after the Act is passed).
There is no change in the common law unless the Act
expressly states that there is.
Mens rea (a guilty mind) is required in criminal cases.

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The Rules of Interpretation
The Literal Rule
Words or phrases in an Act are given their ordinary, natural or dictionary meaning. The
literal rule does not allow a judge to create law. It requires application of the law as
stated by Parliament.
Application of the literal rule may lead to unexpected results that were not intended by
Whiteley v Chappell (1868)
An act made it an offence to impersonate "any person entitled to vote at an election.…read more

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Advantages and Disadvantages:
Respects the sovereignty of Parliament
Parliament is the supreme lawmaker. Judges are given a restricted role, they must
keep to the constitutional position of applying the law as set by parliament.
Leaves lawmaking to democratically elected Parliament
Judges are not elected and it is therefore not democratic for them to be involved in the
creation or even modification of the law. If the law needs to be changed then it is the
responsibility of Parliament.…read more

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The Golden Rule
Is an extension of the literal rule, it allows the court to look at the literal meaning of a
word or phrase but then avoid a literal interpretation which would lead to an absurd
result. There are two approaches taken while applying the golden rule
Narrow approach
A word or phrase is capable of more than one literal meaning the narrow application of
the golden rule allows the judges to select the meaning which avoids an absurdity.…read more

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Advantages and Disadvantages:
Prevents absurd/unjust outcomes
Re Sigsworth (1935), Allen (1872)
More likely to give effect to Parliaments intentions
Parliament would want to avoid absurd and unjust outcomes such as Fisher v Bell
(1961), LNER v Berriman (1946)
Uncertainty as to what is an absurd outcome is.
The use of the golden rule is unpredictable which in turn makes the outcomes of cases
unpredictable. It makes it difficult for lawyers to advise their clients on whether to
pursuer a case.…read more

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The Mischief Rule
The court looks at the gap in the law which Parliament had felt it necessary to fill when
passing the Act. It then interprets the Act to fill that gap and to remedy the mischief
Parliament had been aiming to remedy.…read more


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