A statute or statutory refers to written laws or legislations by a parliament that govern a country or a city, passed by a legislative body (Jean Murray. About. com, 2010). Statutory interpretation is the process of interpreting and applying legislation to benefit a state. This interpretation is necessary as there might be ambiguity (this is when a statute can be interpreted in more than one way. ) in the words of the state that require the judge to interpret the law. Judges use different methods in interpreting statutes, these methods are known as the rules of statutory interpretation.
These rules of statutory interpretation were created over the years by judges trying to avoid ambiguity in the intentions of parliament. The rules of statutory interpretation can be used only in accordance with the kind of ambiguity or vagueness that exists in a case. In this essay I will explain the methods or rules of statutory interpretation and consider how far judges are willing to go in discovering the true intentions of parliament. In conclusion I will summarize the points given in the essay on how statutes are interpreted and the extent judges will go in discovering the true intention of parliament.
The rules of statutory interpretation are as follows; 1. The literal rule. 2. The golden rule. 3. The mischief rule. 4. The purposive rule and finally 5. The rules of language. After these rules come the external and internal aids to interpretation, material that can guide a judge in the process of interpreting statutes and the presumptions. The literal rule. In this rule the judge interprets the parliament’s words in plain everyday language, this means that the law is used according to the way it is stated by the parliament in their literal grammatical sense.
In this rule, the court tries to decipher the intention of the parliament as they have expressed it in their choice of words. One of the leading statements of the literal rule was made by Tindal CJ in the Sussex Peerage Case (1844) 11 Cl&Fin 85: “… the only rule for the construction of Acts of Parliament is that they should be construed according to the intent of the Parliament which passed the Act. If the words of the statute are in themselves precise and unambiguous, then no more can be necessary than to expound those words in their natural and ordinary sense.
The words themselves alone do, in such case, best declare the intention of the lawgiver. ” A clear example where the literal rule was used was in the case of Whiteley v Chappell (1868) LR 4 QB 147, where the defendant pretended to be someone who had died in order to use that persons vote. The parliament stated that it was an offence to personate any person entitled to vote, but as a dead person cannot vote the defendant was not charged with any crime. This rule encourages precision among draftsmen, respects parliaments words, and also prevents the rewriting of parliaments law as the parliament are the only ones allowed to do so.
But on the other hand it can lead to absurdity in judgement and assumes imperfections of parliament. The golden rule. This is a slightly modified version of the literal rule. In this rule, rather than take the parliaments words in a literal sense, the judge can decide to read a deeper meaning to the word of parliament. This is done in order to avoid absurdity in the judgment made by the judge. This is also done when the judgment passed doesn’t seem right for the situation and circumstances in which the case was handled, that is it disallows things that are in reality not meant to be.
It also allows judges to avoid situations contradictory to what is right and which may end up being offensive and inconsiderate. In Grey v Pearson (1857) 6 HL Cas 61, Lord Wensleydale said: “… the grammatical and ordinary sense of the words is to be adhered to, unless that would lead to some absurdity, or some repugnance or inconsistency with the rest of the instrument, in which case the grammatical and ordinary sense of the words may be modified, so as to avoid that absurdity and inconsistency, but no farther. An example of a case in which the golden rule was considered was in the case of R v Allen (1872) LR 1 CCR 367 The defendant was married and married again. It was an offence for a married person to “marry” again unless they were widowed or divorced. When caught the defendant argued that he did not commit this offence as the law regarded his second marriage as invalid. The court held that the word “marry” could also mean a person who “goes through a ceremony of marriage” and so the defendant was guilty.
This doesn’t always come out as the best as judges can rewrite the statute, a duty that is only meant for the parliament. The mischief rule. The mischief rule as seen in Heydon’s case (1584) allows judges to examine past judgements that brought about the law so as to interpret the case or issue that the statute was created to resolve. That is consideration of law prior to the recent law also deciding what the parliament meant or tried to right before making that law and how it applies to whatever case is being considered.
But for this to be carried out four things have to be considered which are; 1. The common law before making the act. 2. The mischief and defect not represented by the common law. 3. The parliament’s conclusion or remedy and 4. Why the remedy was given. It helps judges in a number of ways from helping them launch the remedy of the parliament but also gives judges the chance to rewrite statutes which parliament has the only authorisation permission and ability to do.
An example of this was in the case of Corkery v Carpenter  1 KB 102. A person could be arrested if found drunk in charge of a “carriage” on the highway. The defendant had been arrested for being drunk in charge of a bicycle on the highway. The court held that a bicycle was a “carriage” for the purposes of the Act because the mischief aimed at was drunken persons on the highway in charge of some form of transport, and so the defendant was properly arrested. The purposive rule.
The purposive rule is an interpretation method comprising of the above mentioned rules, namely; the literal rule, the golden rule and the mischief rule, in this case the court or the judge gives the words of parliament a literal meaning but still searches deeper to find the true intentions of parliament while also putting into consideration past rules that brought about the law that is being mentioned in the case. As was stated in the case of Lord Denning MR in Notham v London Borough of Barnet  1 WLR 220).
There will be a comparison of readings of the provision in question based on the literal or grammatical meaning of words with readings based on a purposive approach. The purposive approach brings into light the true intentions of the parliament as great effort is put into understanding the word of parliament. But can amount to a judge re-writing the rules or words of parliament which only the parliament is allowed to do so. An example of the purposive rule is the case of Jones v Tower Boot Co Ltd  2 All ER 406.
The complainant suffered racial abuse at work, which he claimed amounted to racial discrimination for which the employers were liable under s32 of the Race Relations Act 1976. The CA applied the purposive approach and held that the acts of discrimination were committed “in the course of employment”. Any other interpretation ran counter to the whole legislative scheme and underlying policy of s32. Rules of language The rules of language is a system created by judges in helping them understand the words of the parliament in association with the three methods or rules of statutory interpretation.
They help give deeper insight into the words of the parliament in the contexts in which they are used. There are three rules of language namely; ‘Ejusdem Generis’, ‘Expressio Unius est Exclusio Alterius’ and Noscitur a Sociis. EJUSDEM GENERIS (of the same kind): in this rule of language general words are interpreted in light of the specific terms or words they follow. For example, if an act bans office equipment in a recreational place, it could involve not only computers but office desks, utensils and all other office furniture as all this can be categorised as office equipment. this can be seen in the case of Powell v Kempton Park Racecourse  AC 143. It was an offence to use a “house, office, room or other place for betting”. The defendant was operating from a place outdoors. The court held that “other place” had to refer to other indoor places because the words in the list were indoor places and so he was not guilty. EXPRESSIO UNIUS EST EXCLUSIO ALTERIUS: this means that the word of parliament would be interpreted with specific words that are used, not general ones.
In this case the legislation only applies to the specified words. An example in which this rule of language was used was in the case of Muir v Keay (1875) LR 10 QB 594. All houses kept open at night for “public refreshment, resort and entertainment” had to be licensed. The defendant argued that his cafe did not need a licence because he did not provide entertainment. The court held that “entertainment” did not mean musical entertainment but the reception and accommodation of people, so the defendant was guilty.
NOSCITUR A SOCIIS: this simply means that a word mentioned also covers other words that are in the context of it but not necessarily mentioned as part of the word. An example of this rule of language was seen in the case of Tempest v Kilner (1846) 3 CB 249. A statute required that contracts for the sale of “goods, wares and merchandise” of ?10 or more had to be evidenced in writing. The court had to decide if this applied to a contract for the sale of stocks and shares.
The court held that the statute did not apply because stocks and shares were not mentioned. External and internal aids to interpretation These are also aids which a judge puts into consideration when interpreting statutes. Internal aids include: other enacting words, long title, preamble, short title, headings, side notes and punctuations. External aids include: dictionaries and other literacy sources, practice, other statutes in Parliamentary Material, official reports, Treaties and International Conventions, Parliamentary Materials/Hansard.
Presumptions. There are various presumptions that can be applied namely; 1. Presumption against changes in the common law 2. Presumption against ousting the jurisdiction of the courts 3. Presumption against interference with vested rights 4. Strict construction of penal laws in favour of the Citizen 5. Presumption against retrospective operation 6. Presumption that statutes do not affect the Crown These rules of statutory interpretation have enlightened us on the length judges would go in discovering the true intentions of parliament.
Over the years judges have come up with ways of interpreting the word of parliament and this has proved advantageous as it helps avoid absurdity, ambiguity, vagueness and harshness in past and recent cases. In conclusion, I have outlined and explained the methods or rules of statutory interpretation judges adopt in interpreting statutes and shown how far they have gone in discovering the true intentions of parliament, I have also discussed the rules of language and stated relevant examples in understanding the different rules of statutory interpretation and how they are used for out benefits.