Statutory Interpretation

  • Created by: Heather
  • Created on: 05-01-12 16:07

The Literal Rule.

Looks at the ordinary dictionary definition of a word in a statute, even if it creates an absurd result.

Case 1: Whitely v Chappell

States that it is an offence to impersonate any person entitled to vote. The phrase needed to be interpretated was 'entitled to vote'. As the defendent inpersonated a dead person, dead people are not entitled to vote and therefore D was found Not Guilty

Case 2: lNER v Berrimen

Mrs Berrimen's husband was killed whilst 'oiling and repairng' the track. Under the 'Fatal Accidents Act' the wife tried to claim compensation, however the Act stated that compensation was only given of the person was 'Maintaining or Relaying' the track. As Mr Berrimen was 'Oiling and Repairing' the track Mrs Berrimen was not entitled to compensation.

Ad. Promotes Parlimentary Supremacy

      Quick and Easy to  use as you are just looking at the Dictionary definition of a word

      Provides certainty within the law

Dis.Created absurd and Unjust outcomes

       Assumes unattainable perfection in draftsmenship

      Doesn't allow for more than one meaning and differant interpretaions of a word.

The Golden Rule

Starts by looking at the Literal Rule, and when this creates an absurd outcome the golden rule is used to prevent this absurdity

Case 1: Narrow approach: When a word has two meanings to it the judge can choose which one to use.

R V Allen

under the Offences Against the Persons Act is in offence to 'marry' when ones original spouse is still alive. Marry had two meanings 1: to legally marry 2: Marriage Ceremony. If you take definition 1 It is impossible to legally marry more than one person therefore making the act of Bigamy impossible to committ.This would be an absurd result. Definition 2 is chosen and D is found guilty.

Case 2: Broad approach: A judge can change or add meaning to a word, but only when literal meaning of a word creates an absurd outcome.

Alder V George

charged under the Official secrets Act, it is an offense to obstruct a military person 'in the vicinity' of a prohibited place. D declared that he was not in the vivinity but actually in the building itself and was therefore not guilty. This would be absurd so the judged changed the meaning of the phrase to 'in and in the vivinity of' and D was found Guilty

Ad. Avoids absurd results

      Narrow approach respects parliamentary supremacy

      Allows courts to put into practice what parliament intended

Dis. Provides no clear explanation of what can be judged as an absurdity

     Broad approach does not respect parliamentry supremacy


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