Statutory Interpretation Cases

Selection of cases used to illustrate stautory interpretation

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Whitely v Chappell

Whitely v Chappell

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Whitely v Chappell

An Act made it an offence to "impersonate anyone entitled to vote". The defendant had impersonated a dead person when voting. When the Literal Rule is applied, the defendant has committed no offence as dead people are not entitled to vote.

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LNER v Berriman

LNER v Berriman

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LNER v Berriman

An Act stated that anyone "relaying or repairing" train tracks is entitled a spotter. Berriman had been oiling the tracks, which the court held was "maintaining" the tracks. When the Literal Rule is applied, Berriman's widow was not entitled to compensation.

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Fisher v Bell

Fisher v Bell

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Fisher v Bell

The Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959 made it an offence to "sell or offer for sale" an offensive weapon. The defendant had been displaying flick knives in his shop window, which under Contract Law was an "offer to treat", not an offer for sale. When applying the Literal Rule this created an absurd result.

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R v Allen

R v Allen

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R v Allen

The defendant was charged under the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 for marrying twice. The defendant argued he hadn't actually married twice, just gone through the ceremony again. The court applied the narrow approach to the Golden Rule to select the meaning of the word 'marry' to mean 'go through the ceremony' and find the defendant guilty.

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Adler v George

Adler v George

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Adler v George

The defendant was charged under the Official Secrets Act 1920 for obstructing a member of the armed forces in the "vicinity of a prohibited area". The defendant had actually been in the area, not the vicinity of it. The court used the Broad Approach of the Golden Rule to modify the meaning of 'vicinity' to also mean the prohibited area itself.

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Maddox v Storer

Maddox v Storer

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Maddox v Storer

The Road Traffic Act 1960 made it an offence to drive at more than 30mph in a vehicle "adapted to carry seven or more passengers". The vehicle in question was a minibus which had been built to carry seven or more passengers. The court applied the Broad Approach of the Golden Rule to modify the word "adapt" to also mean "suitable for". 

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Heydon's Case

Heydon's Case

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Heydon's Case

The court stated four things that should be considered when applying the Mischief Rule.

1. What was the common law before the Act was passed?

2. What was the mischief the common law did not provide a remedy?

3. What remedy does the new Act provide?

4. What is the true reason for the remedy?

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Smith v Hughes

Smith v Hughes

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Smith v Hughes

The Street Offences Act 1959 made it an offence to "solicit in a street or public place". Prostitutes solicited from balconies and windows of their homes. The Mischief Rule was applied to find the prostitutes guilty under the Act  as it was made to prevent soliciting in public. 

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Elliot v Grey

Elliot v Grey

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Elliot v Grey

The Road Traffic Act 1930 made it an offence for an uninsured car to "be used on the road". The car was on the side of the road with the battery removed. The Mischief Rule was applied to make it an offence as the Act was designed to prevent uninsured cars being on the road. 

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Pepper v Hart

Pepper v Hart

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Pepper v Hart

Judge struggled to interpret Section 63 of the Finances Act 1976. "Cash Equivalent" could mean either the concessions for teachers or the average cost of tuition to the public or teachers. The Judge looked to Hansard to find Parliament's intentions when passing the Act and appy the Purposive Approach.

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Jones v Tower Boot Co.

Jones v Tower Boot Co.

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Jones v Tower Boot Co.

The Judge had to decide whether the abuse of a black worker fell under the "course of employment" in Section 32 of the Race Relations Act 1976. The Purposive Approach was applied and Parliament's intentions were shown to be to stop discrimination, so the defendant was found liable.

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R v Wheatley

R v Wheatley

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R v Wheatley

The Court of Appeal used the long title of the Explosive Substances Act 1883 in order to interpret the Act. 

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Vaughn v Vaughn

Vaughn v Vaughn

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Vaughn v Vaughn

The Court of Appeal used a dictionary to interpret the word 'molest'.

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Powell v Kempton Park Racecourse

The defendant kept an open air enclosure for betting. An Act made it an offence to keep a "house, office or other place" for betting purposives. The court applied the ejusdem generis rule and held that the open air enclosure was not covered by the act.

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R v Inhabitants of Sedgley

R v Inhabitants of Sedgley

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R v Inhabitants of Sedgley

Rates were charged on "land, titles and coal mines". Under the expressio unius est exclusio alterious rule then rates could not be charged on any other mine. 

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Muir v Keay

Muir v Keay

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Muir v Keay

The Refreshment Houses Act 1975 stated that all "houses, rooms, shops or buildings" kept open for entertainment at night need a license. The defendant kept a cafe open at night. When the noscitur a sociis is applied, the word 'entertainment" can be interpreted to mean drinking coffee late at night in the context it's written in. 

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