Unit 1 Statutory Interpretation


The Literal Rule

Ordinary, dictionary meaning of words

LNER v Berriman 

Fatal Accidents Act 1846

'Relaying and repairing' not maintaining

DPP v Cheeseman

Town Police Clauses Act 1847

'Passengers' police didn't count as passengers because they weren't there for the toilets ordinary use or just passing through

Whitely v Chappel

'Entitled to vote' A dead person isn't entitled to vote

1 of 8

The Golden Rule

Start with literal meaning and then can avoid absurdity

Narrow  R v Allen

OAPA 1861

Marry: either to go through a marriage ceremony or to be legally married. Had to choose first or bigamy wouldn't be a crime

Broad Adler v George

Official Secrets Act 1920

'In the vicinity' He was in the area, not near it. Statute changed to 'in or in the vicinity' 

Re Sigsworth

Administrations of Estates Act 1925

Anyone wouldn't be entitled to the estate of whom they killed

2 of 8

The Mischief Rule

Interpreting the Act by seeing what problem Parliament wanted to solve

Heydon's Case- Judges must answer the four questions: 

1. What was the law before the statute?

2. What problem did this not stop?

3. What is the solution that the statute gives?

4. Why has the new statute been made?

Hughes v Smith

Street Offences Act 1959

'street or public place'. Although they were in a private house, the Act intended for prostitutes to stop molesting men who were in the street.

3 of 8

The Mischief Rule

Royal College of Nursing v DHSS

Abortion Act 1967

'terminated by a registered medical practitioner' Nurses did count because Parliament intended to stop illegal abortions being carried out which was killing the mothers.

Corkery v Carpenter

Lisencing Act 1872

'Being drunk on a highway in charge of a carriage'

A bike did count because Parliament intended to decrease the use of transport whilst drunk on a highway to avoid accidents.

4 of 8

The Purposive Approach

Interpreting Parliament's intentions for the future

Jones v Tower Boot Company

Race Relations Act 1972

'Course of employment'. Being whipped and burned were not tasks part of your job but Parliament's intentions were to premote equality and prevent abuse in the workplace.

R v Registrar-Genera ex parte Smith

Adoption Act 1976

'Shall supply' Might have tracked down his biological mother and harmed her. Parliament did not intend to premote harm so didn't supply him.

5 of 8

Intrinsic Aids

Intrinsic Aids

Short title eg. Fatal Accidents Act 1846

Headings such as definitions of crime 

Definition Section to clear up ambiguity and help statute be interpreted correctly.

Oxford v Moss: Theft Act 1968 - 'all money and property' Definition section said knowledge was not property. D not guilty

Marginal notes give guidance 

6 of 8

Rules of Language

Ejusdem Generis- Things of the same kind 

Powell v Kempton Park Racecourse

'House, office, room or other place' Anywhere outside did not count

Nocitur sociisA word is known by the company it keeps

Inland Revenue Commissioners V Frere

'Interest, annuities or other annual interest'

Under annual so income couldn't be deducted and he had to pay tax

Expressio usisExpressing one thing cancels another

Tempest v Kilner

'Good, wares, merchandise' Didn't say stocks and share so no written contract required

7 of 8

Extrinsic Aids

Hansard: A printed record of all debates in Parliament which helps judges to identify P's intentions

Pepper v Hart (overruled Davis v Johnson) set 3 circumstances that Hansard could be used:

1. Words in the Act are ambiguous, uncertain or absurd

2. The MP in charge of the Act has made a statement

3. This statement clears up the absudity or uncertainty


Oxford Dictionary from the year of the statute. 

DPP v Cheeseman. Used Oxford Dictionary from 1847, same as Town Police Clauses Act

Interpretation Act 1978 eg. The word 'he' also refers to 'she'

8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar Law resources:

See all Law resources »See all Statutory Interpretation resources »