Statutory Interpretation

Statutory Interpretation
Rules of Language
Ejusdem generis
Of the same kind
List of words followed by 'any other' of a similar type (a general phrase)
'Dogs, cats and other animals' means ONLY domestic pets, not wild animals
Re Stockport Ragged, Industrial and Reformatory Schools (1898)
'cathedral, collegiate, chapter and other schools' means ONLY church schools
Expressio Unius est exclusio alterius
The mention of one thing excludes others
E.g. 'Coffee, tea, hot chocolate' so malt does not apply
Tempest v Kilner (1846)
'goods, wares and merchandise'
Therefore does NOT apply to stocks & shares
Noscitur a sociis
A word is known by the company it keeps
Wild Animals Act 2011
Inland Revenue Comissioners v Frere (1965)
'interest, annuities or other annual interest'
> 'other annual interest'
Therefore ONLY applies to annual interest
Interpretive Aids
Long & Short Title of Act
Marginal notes & Headings
Interpretation section (more recent)
Theft Act 1968
'a weapon of offence'
'any article made or adapted for use for causing injury'
More respectful of Parliament
Quick & easy
Could still have ambiguous definitions
May not be enough
Previous Acts of Parliament
Case Law
Law reform reports
International traties
Explanatory Notes (after 1999)
Dictionary is quick & easy
Hansard can clarify Parlieament's intentions
Using Hansard may not represent entire opinion of Parliament
Ministers may be unclear
Danger of undermining authority of Parliament
Purposive Approach
Modern day version of the mischief rule
Jones v Tower Boot Co. (1997)
Court of Appeal decided that racial harassment by fellow workers happened
'in the course of employment' making the employer liable
Makes sense to look at 'whole purpose' of the Act
Gives effect to Parliament's intentions
Allows judges to use common sense
Allows judges to consider social and technological changes
Finding the intention of Parliament can be difficult
Undemocratic - gives too much power to unelected judges
May cause confusion
Mischief Rule
Judges look for the 'mischief' that the law was attempting to prevent
and modify it to make sure that intention is achieved
4 Factors to Consider
What was the common law before the Act was passed?
What was the mischief that the Act was designed to prevent?
What was the remedy that Parliament was trying to provide?
What was the reason for this remedy?
Gives effect to Parliament's intentions
Smith v Hughes
Intention to stop prostitutes being a nuisance to others
whether literally in the street or not
Allows judges to use common sense
Allows judges to consider social & technological changes
Allows judges to look at external aids such as Hansard
Finding the intention of Parliament can be difficult
Undemocratic - gives too much power to unelected judges
Does not reflect modern needs
May cause confusion
Golden Rule
Use the literal rule unless doing so would product an absurd result
Narrow Application
If a word is ambiguous, judge can choose a possible meaning
Wide Application
Only one meaning, but modify to stop absurd result
Adler v George (1964)
'In the vicinity of' modified to include being IN the area
R v Sigsworth (1935)
Stopped son inherting mother's estate after murdering her
Courts can make sensible decisions by altering definitions of words in statutes
Parliament don't need to pass new legislation, saving time
Still respects Parliamentary Sovereignty
Only allows change in limited circumstances
Unpredictable and lacks guidelines
Its application is inconsistent
Literal Rule
To apply the words of the statute literally, exactly as they are written
Fisher V Bell (1960)
Knife displayed in shop window should have been contrary to Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act, 1959.
The literal rule was applied to say that the display was not a contract / offer to sell but just an 'invitation to treat'
Whiteley v Chappell (1868)
Charged with impersonating 'any person entitled to vote' the defendant was acquitted
because he impersonated a dead person, who was therefore not entitled to vote
Respects Parliamentary Sovereignty
Encourages certainty & people know where they stand
Quick decisions can be made
Sometimes produces an absurd result
Hard to apply if words have more than one meaning
Not flexible & judges can't use common sense