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The United Kingdom written law is known as statute law, also identified as legislation. These laws are created and implemented by Parliament and enforced by various authorities. This assignment has the objective to give a better explanation of statutory interpretation and the methodologies associated with it. Moreover, it shows a more comprehensive understanding on how courts use these methodologies to interpret statutes when is needed. There are three main rules associated on statutory interpretation described as the literal rule, the golden rule and mischief rule. This assignment will be completed by setting; the reasons for the courts using these rules will be thoroughly explained.
Before sketching out the methodologies of statutory interpretation, it is important to comprehend the correct importance of it. Statutory interpretation is the process by which courts interpret legislation or an act of parliament to a better understanding of the statute. House of Lords receives the cases and those cases are concerned with statutory interpretation, the words of a statute can have straightforward meaning, however, sometimes courts have to interpret statutes because those words can be confusing and indistinct to understand as they can have diverse meaning. These words need to be understood precisely in order that the respondents get the right sentence for the crimes they are being accused, that is one of the reasons that judges role is to clarify the uncertainty of these words may cause. To approach the correct method parliaments created the interpretation Act 1978 to guide judges when applying statutes as bills and legislation and the interpretation Act 1978 states that “In any Act, unless the contrary intention appears; words importing the masculine gender include the feminine, words importing the feminine gender include the masculine, words in the singular include the plural and words in the plural include the singular.” (Essay sauce, 2017) This part of the act was designed to help the judges with general words. Nowadays, most statutes contain an interpretation section to facilitate the courts. These sections summaries what the words contain and how they should be conducted.
To assess the statutory interpretation is needed the use of three explicit statutory rules. Rules had been established so framework of interpretation could be provided, these rules are the common approach in terms of examining the meaning of languages used in courts. These are known as the Literal Rule, the Golden Rule, and the Mischief Rule.
This rule is the first of many rules of statutory interpretation. Literal rule is can be defined as giving words as they are given their ordinary and natural meaning. Courts normally apply to literal rule before applying to any other rules, although, when this rule is applied the law is read word by word and courts have the job to interpret this word as they actually are and not explain in the way they think they should be explained. As an example of the literal rule case of Fisher v Bell (1960), where a retailer had a knife for display on his shop window. “Any person who manufactures, sells or hires or offers for sale or hire any knife which has a blade which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button shall be guilty of an offense” (Essay Sauce,2017) Restriction of offensive weapon Act (1959) Essay sauce, 2017). This Act practically recommends that the retailer should be convicted as guilty. But, the court determined that this retailer was not a victim of any offense. The owner only had the knife in the shop window with a price and was not selling it. Even though the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959 says that an individual should not bargain knife blade for sale, it is certain that this term should be given the literal rule and the shop owner should not be prosecuted. Many cases which involve the literal rule have caused numerals problem, there have been circumstances in which literal rule has caused injustice. The public could believe that judges are being partial and that some people do not deserve the sentence that they have been given. Also, the literal rule can be very difficult to apply in some cases.
This rule has the same principles of the literal rule and is used when literal interpretation causes an unjust result, in other words, the golden rule is a modification of literal rule and it enables the judges to look at the words in context. The court always begins the case with literal rule approach, however, if this rule fails on its logic, then the golden rule could be applied. The golden rule can be interpreted in two ways; a narrow approach and a wide approach. The narrow approach term reflects on the judge’s views of how the golden rule must be applied and has more than one meaning, in this case, the judge applies the meaning which best outfits the situation in which the word is being interpreted. The R v Allen 1872 and Adler v Georgia 1964 cases are probably the best case which exemplifies the use of the golden rule, the R v Allen case, the defendant Allen was accused adultery. The section 57 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 evidently states that ‘anyone who being married shall marry any other person during the life of the former husband/wife shall be guilty of bigamy.’ (Legislation.gov.uk, 2002) The challenge caused in court was in relation to the word marry. So, to make sense the court decided that the word married should also mean a legal form and ceremony of marriage with another person. Nevertheless, as the defendant was already married it only made sense to the judges to implement the general meaning of the word. If the judges applied to another meaning of the word, otherwise this would have led to bigamy and could result in an absurd verdict.
The wide approach by Adler v George 1964 showed that the defendant was accused of obstructing a guard in the execution of his duty as the Act 1920 outlines that no person in vicinity duty or the chief officer shall be obstructed or the person will be convicted as guilty. The defendant claimed that since he was in the forbidden place and not in the vicinity of it, he should not be found guilty. Moreover, If the court agreed to use the first term, that would say that the defendant would be innocent as and that would be an absurd decision. Courts came across this decision to clarify that whether a person is near or in the vicinity of the prohibited place, it is not right to obstruct it.
Mischief rule is the oldest rules. This rule is principle used to interpret statutes, judges can apply into statutory interpretation to discover Parliament’s intention but this rule requires that the court should look first to what the law was before the statute, in order to discover what gap or mischief the statute was intended to cover. The court is then essential for the interpretation of the statute in a way that the gap is covered. The rule summaries the Heydon’s Case (1584), where it was said that for the true interpretation of a statute, a few aspects have to be taken in consideration such as what was the common law before the making of the Act, what was the mischief and defect for which the common law did not provide and the true reason of the remedy.
At one level it is evidently the most flexible rule of interpretation, but it is limited to using the previous common law to determine what mischief the Act in question was designed to remedy. The case itself concerned a dispute about legislation passed under Henry VIII in 1540 and a legal action against Heydon for intruding into certain lands in the county of Devon.
As an example, for mischief rule is found in the case of Corkery v Carpenter (1951). In 1951 Shane Corkery was condemned to one month in jail for being drunk in charge of a bicycle in public. At about 2.45 p.m. on 18 January 1950, the defendant was drunk and was pushing his pedal bicycle along Broad Street in Ilfracombe. He was subsequently charged under section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872 with being drunk in charge of a carriage. The 1872 Act made no actual reference to bicycles. The court elected to use the mischief rule to decide the matter. The objective of the Act was to prevent people from using any form of transport on a public highway whilst in a state of intoxication. The bicycle was clearly a form of transport and therefore the user was correctly charged. (Law student, 2010)
To summarise, this assignment explained that statutory interpretation is a method of interpreting and applying legislation. It is vital to use statutory interpretation as a guide to control the fundamental meanings of statutes and legislation. This includes applying the common law rules of statutory interpretation against the present case.
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