Statutory Interpretation

Raisha Gibbs
Mind Map by Raisha Gibbs, updated more than 1 year ago
Raisha Gibbs
Created by Raisha Gibbs almost 4 years ago


covers the four ways of interpreting statutes

Resource summary

Statutory Interpretation
1 The literal rule
1.1 Definitions
1.1.1 "give the words their ordinary, natural meaning from a dictionary of the time when the statute was written" - Lord Reid
1.1.2 "if the words of the Act are clear, you must follow them, even though they lead to a manifest absurdity" - Lord Esher
1.2 Advantages
1.2.1 Respects Parliamentary Sovereignty - elected and therefore democratic
1.2.2 Fits with the Separation of Powers, gives judges a restricted role, restricts judicial bias
1.2.3 Highlights problematic areas to Parliament who can make changes e.g Fisher V Bell (direct change)
1.2.4 Allows for consistency and a predictable outcome which aids lawyers ability to advise clients
1.3 Disadvantages
1.3.1 Does not always give effect to Parliament's intentions, can cause absurd results e.g Cheeseman e.g Fisher V Bell
1.3.2 Unjust results e.g LNER V Berriman
1.3.3 Causes problems where there are ambiguities or broad terms
1.4 Cases
1.4.1 Fisher V Bell - the restriction of offensive weapons Act 1959 which made it an offence to 'sell or offer for sale'. The judge applied the literal rule and stated that the flick knives sitting in the window were not on being physically sold, and therefore he was found not guilty.
1.4.2 LNER V Berriman - Claimant wanted compensation for the death of those 'relaying' or 'repairing' the track. The literal rule found that the claimant's husband was 'maintaining' the track, and therefore the defendant was found not liable.
1.4.3 Cheeseman - charged with performing a private act to the 'annoyance of passengers'. A dictionary of the time of the act stated that a passenger was someone passing through, and since the police stationed there were not, the defendant was found not guilty.
1.4.4 Whitely V Chappell - charged with 'impersonating any person who was entitled to vote'. The literal approach was applied and the defendant was acquitted as the individual he was impersonating was deceased and could not vote.
2 The purposive approach
2.1 Advantages
2.1.1 Allows for a fair result e.g compare Berriman and Cotlman
2.1.2 Allows the law to develop and cope with unforeseen situations e.g Quintavalle
2.1.3 Creates consistency across countries (EU Laws)
2.2 Definitions
2.2.1 "seeks to give effect to the true purpose of the legislation" - Lord Griffiths
2.3 Disadvantages
2.3.1 Infringes Separation of Powers Judges become law makers e.g Fitzpatrick
2.3.2 Gives judges too much power
2.3.3 Scope for judicial bias
2.3.4 It is inconsistently applied, makes it difficult for lawyers to predict the outcome
2.4 Cases
2.4.1 Cotlman V Bibby Tankers; employers should be liable for death as a result of "defective equipment", equipment defined as aircraft, vehicle or clothing, judge read the list as if including ships, the employer was found to be liable.
2.4.2 Quintavalle; offence to experiment "after fertilisation has occurred", judge ignored the word 'fertilised' and the experiments were stopped.
2.4.3 Fitzpatrick V Sterling Housing; partner of deceased could remain living in the house if "married", homosexuals were not offered the option to marry, judge allowed the tenant to remain living in the house.
3 The golden rule
3.1 Advantages
3.1.1 Avoids absurdity e,g R V Allen
3.1.2 Most likely to achieve Parliament's intentions
3.1.3 Errors can be corrected immediately e.g Alder V George
3.1.4 Respects judges' constitutional role as it limits them
3.2 Disadvantages
3.2.1 Open to judicial bias as judges can decide what constitutes as 'absurd'
3.2.2 Uncertain outcome, inability for lawyers to advise clients e.g Fisher V Bell
3.2.3 Broad allows for judges to change meaning of Parliament's words, undemocratic and unelected e.g Sigswoth policy decision
3.3 Definitions
3.3.1 "giving the words their ordinary significance unless when applied they produce an inconsistency or an absurdity" - Lord Blackburn Narrow approach; applied when the word or phrase is capable of more than one meaning, allows the judge to chose the meaning that avoids an absurdity Broad approach; applied when the literal meaning would cause an absurdity, the court will modify the meaning to avoid an absurdity
3.3.2 "if the words of the Act have several meanings, you can chose between those, but beyond that you cannot go" - Lord Reid
3.4 Cases
3.4.1 R V Allen; offence to marry if already married, marry had two meanings, defendant found guilty
3.4.2 Alder V George; defendant was trespassing on a military base, the meaning of vicinity was changed to include 'in' as well as 'nearby or around', defendant found guilty
3.4.3 Sigsworth; murdered his mother, he was the "sole issues" and therefore was entitled to her house, court changed the Act, making it so that only the next of kin can inherit the estate if they weren't the murder
4 The mischief rule
4.1 Disadvantages
4.1.1 Infringes Separation of Powers Judges go beyond constitutional role e.g RNC V DHSS
4.1.2 Discovering mischief is not always easy
4.1.3 Creates Retrospective law e.g Smith V Hughes
4.1.4 Inconsistencies can arise
4.2 Advantages
4.2.1 Avoids absurd outcomes e.g Berriman
4.2.2 Promotes flexibility, allows the law to stay up to date e.g RNC V DHSS
4.2.3 Law is applied in the way that Parliament intended e.g Corkey V Carpenter
4.3 Hayden's case rules
4.3.1 What was the common rule before the act?
4.3.2 What was the mischief that the common law did not provide?
4.3.3 What was the remedy that Parliament passed to cure the mischief?
4.4 Lord Diplock
4.4.1 The mischief must be seen within the Act
4.4.2 Parliament obviously overlooked the problem
4.4.3 The words required to be added could be identified with a high degree of certainty
4.5 Cases
4.5.1 RNC V DHSS; offence for anyone other than "medical professionals to preform an abortion, mischief was backstreet abortions (death, exploitation and infections), judge read it as 'medically trained staff' and therefore nurses were allowed to provide abortions.
4.5.2 Corkey V Carpenter; offence to be in charge of a "carriage" while drunk, despite a bike not technically being a carriage, the judge changed the meaning to include bikes, mischief was putting yourself and other road uses at risk of harm.
4.5.3 Smith V Hughes; charged with soliciting in a public place, despite soliciting from an open bedroom window the defendants were found guilty.
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