The Golden Rule

  • Created by: _laurenb
  • Created on: 19-05-15 16:28

The Literal Approach - The Golden Rule


  • a modification of the literal rule
  • avoids absurb outcomes


  • Narrow Application

when a word is ambigious, a judge may choose between the possible meanings of the word to avoid an absurd outcome, but must go no further

  • Wider Application

when a word has only one meaning but using this meaning would result in an absurd outcome, the judge can use the golden rule to modify the words of the statute

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The Literal Approach - The Golden Rule



  • attempted to marry when already married - bigamy
  • this is an offence under the Offences Against The Persons Act 1861
  • 'marry' was ambigious
  • could either mean to 'become legally married' or to 'go through the marriage ceremony'
  • Allen argued he could not become married as this was illegal
  • the narrow application was used and the second definition of the word was used to avoid an absurd outcome


  • killed his mother to gain inheritance
  • he had the legal right to inherit from her under the Administration of Estates Act 1925
  • the wording of the act was unambigious, but would have resulted in an absurd outcome
  • the wider application of the golden rule was used to modify the words of the statute, avoiding an absurd outcome
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The Literal Approach - The Golden Rule


  • avoids an absurd outcome
  • allows judges to use the most sensible meaning when there is more than one
  • judges can use their experience and common sense
  • respects the words of parliament by using them to start off with
  • by allowing modification, an amending act does not have to be made
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The Literal Approach - The Golden Rule


  • 'a feeble parachute' as it provides an escape route, but with little use
  • its use is unpredictable
  • its use is inconsistent
  • it comes with no guidelines (such as how to test if an outcome would be absurd)
  • can lead to uncertainty in the law as words are not interpreted exactly as they are written
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