Judges use a variety of different approaches when faced with an issue of statutory interpretationDiscuss with reference to case lawStatutory interpretation is the way judges interpret statues made by parliament. Judges have tointerpret law made by parliament because certain words may have more than one meaning and sothe courts have to interpret it in a way to try to enforce what parliament intended. Howeversometimes this may be difficult is because a broad term in a statue may create an unjust outcome orlead to absurdity. Judges use a variety of approaches when faced with issues of statutoryinterpretation. These are known as the rules of interpretation. There are 4 rules that judges usewhen interpreting the wording in a statue. These rules are the literal rule, the golden rule, themischief rule and the purposive approach.The literal rule is the first rule of statutory interpretation, this is when judges take the ordinary, plainand natural meaning of a word. The rationale behind the use of the literal rule is if the words of thestatue are clear then they must be applied even if the outcome is harsh. The definition of the literalrule was made clear in the case of Sussex v Peerage Case. One example of where the literal rule wasused is in the case of Chappell v Nestle. In this case the defendant impersonated a dead person sothey can vote. The statue stated that it was a criminal offence to impersonate any person entitled tovote. The court held that a dead person is not entitled to vote so the defendant was found notguilty. However, this rule ironically
went against parliament’s intention.
Although the literal rule isintend
ed to enforce parliament’s intention when interpreting the natural, this can cause some
problems. Another case where application of the literal rule resulted in an absurd outcome was inthe case of Fisher v Bill. The words offer for sale were used which allowed shop keepers to displayflick knives in their shop. The court held the displaying of the flick knives was not an offer to salethem but an invitation to treat. This allowed the shop keepers to continue displaying the knives. Oneof the disadvantages of the literal rule is that it sometimes interpreting the word in its literal sensecan result in an absurd outcome which can create injustice and this could create problems within thelaw. However, the advantage of it is follows exactly what parliament said therefore promotescertainty.Judges must interpret the law using the literal approach as far as possible to the extent it does notproduce an absurd outcome. However, if the literal rule does lead to an absurd result the judge mayuse what is known as the golden rule. The golden rule is when judges avoid using the literal meaningof a word when the word may have more than one meaning or lead to an absurd outcome. Therationale behind the golden rule is it mitigates the potential harshness that arises from the literalrule. This was referred to in Grey v Pearson. The court ruled where the ordinary sense of the word isto be followed unless that would lead some absurdity or inconsistency. An example of where theGolden rule was applied is the case of Re Sigsworth. The defendant stood to inherit her
house under the Admin of estates act. However, he killed his mother and the court amended themeaning of the word so as to stop a murder benefiting from his crime. The golden rule was appliedin preference to the literal rule. The advantage of the golden rule is that it allows for flexibility in acase where applying the literal rule will cause injustice and unfairness or a ridiculous outcome.