modern interpretation

Statutory interpretation is the legal process whereby a judge applies a statute to a case and must give meaning to the words in the statute in order to decide what they mean and how it should be applied to a particular case. When interpreting statutes, the judges role is to put into effect the Parliaments wishes. Conflicts may arise when deciding if the intention of Parliament can be found in the words of the statute itself or whether judges should acquire into the purpose of the Act then interpret the words themselves. In order to interpret these statutes, over the years, various guidelines were developed in order to assist judges in their interpretative function. The basic approaches whichfirst arose are the literal rule, the golden rule and the mischief rule.
Thefirst main approach used by judges in interpreting statutes is the literal rule. This approach requires courts to give the exact meaning of words in statutes where there is no uncertainty and the meaning is clear. However, sometimes the literal rule may lead to an absurd result. An example of a case is Fisher v Bell(1961) where a statute stated it was an offence to'offer for sale' offensive weapons. The verdict was the shopkeeper, who was displaying flick knives, was not'offering for sale' but making an invitation to treat and he was acquitted. (Vickery & Pendleton, 2003)
The second approach is an extension of the literal rule which is the golden rule. If the exact meaning of words were to lead to an absurd result, the court would apply the least ridiculous meaning in order to avoid an absurd result. An example of a case is R v Allen(1872) whereby the defendant claimed it was no legal to marry another while already married. The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 stated' Whosoever being married…shall marry another…commits an offence…'. This would mean no one could ever be convicted and it was an absurd result. Therefore they…


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