Statutory Interpretation

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  • Created by: lozza day
  • Created on: 09-02-12 19:21

Literal Vs Purposeful Approach

Literal approach - Restrictive view, judge must look at the words of the legislation to understand it's meaning.

Purposive approach - Wider approach, judges may look at the purpose of the legislation to give it's intended effect. 

over the years 3 different rules of interpretation have been established;

  • Literal rule
  • Golden rule
  • Mischief rule
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The Literal Rule

The legislation should be taken in it's "ordinary, plain and natural meaning."

ADVANTAGES - respects the sovereignty of Parliament. Makes the law more certain -> people know how judges will interpret it. Judges can not depart from the law.

DISADVANTAGES - does not take account of the reality of the use of language. Parliamentary draftsmen can make mistakes. May lead to injustice (e.g. Berriman)  

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Case examples of the literal rule

Case 1  - Whiteley v Chappell 1868; defendant was charged with "impersonating a person entitled to vote" the person in question, was dead, and as they were dead they literally could not vote, so the defendant was acquitted.

Case 2 - LNE Railway Co. v Berriman 1946the widow of a railway worker tried to sue the railway company for compensation for her husbands death as a result of their failure to supply a look-out man in accordance with their statutory duty when a worker is 'repairing or relaying' a track. The House of Lords dismissed the case because Mr.Berriman was maintaining the line when he was killed, and not "repairing or relaying" as it is state in the act. 

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