statutory interpretation - A2

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  • Created on: 05-04-11 09:44

Statutory interpretation

 Definition – the interpretation of acts by parliament by the judges

There are 4 rules of interpretation. These are:

1.       The literal rule

2.        The golden rule

3.       The mischief rule

4.       The purposive approach


1.       The literal rule.

Definition – the literal rule are the words or phrases in an act are given their ordinary dictionary meaning.


The judges take the ordinary natural meaning of a word or phrase and apply it, even if there is an absurd result.


Case – whitely v Chappell 1868

The defendant had voted twice in an election, first using his own name and secondly masquerading as someone who had died. He was charged with impersonating a person entitled to vote in an election. Using the literal rule the court found him not guilty: he could not be guilty of impersonating someone entitled to vote, since dead people are not entitled to vote. 

Legal principle – adopting the literal rule can defeat the purpose of the legislation.


2.       The golden rule.

The golden rule is used to mitigate the harshness of the literal rule. It is restricted to cases where the key word has more than one meaning. If one meaning would result in an absurd outcome another is preferred.


3.       The mischief rule

The courts identify the mischief or problem with the old common law and then examine the remedy provided by parliament.

This can be seen in the case of:

 Case - Smith v Hughes 1960

Under the street offences act 1958


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