Statutory Interpretation of the English Court

1783 Words8 Pages
Statutory Interpretation of the English Courts Throughout the history of the English Legal System, it is generally agreed to the idea of the courts as the “discoverer of law”. This, in a way, means that the court holds the power and responsibility to interpret the statute, which is one of the written sources of the British Constitution. Hence when the meaning of a certain statute is unclear, the court must discover how Parliament intended the law to apply and put that to practice. Prior to the incorporation of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) in the UK Law, UK courts basically applies 3 traditional ‘rules’ in statutory interpretation, namely the Literal Rule, the Golden Rule and the Mischief rule. However after the incorporation of the HRA on 9th November 1998, the interpretative provisions of the HRA have had a major impact in judicial interpretative practice. The traditional rules of interpretation are not rules at all, but different approaches which were generally said as an invention of judges. The literal rule, as the name explains, gives all the words in the statute their ordinary and natural meaning. Under this rule, the literal meaning must be followed, regardless even if it leads to an absurd outcome. Famously quoted by Lord Scarman in Duport Steels Ltd v Sirs (1980) : “Parliament makes and unmakes the law, the judges duty is to interpret and to apply the law, not to change it to meet the judge’s idea of that justice requires.” Earlier examples of the application of the literal rule is the case of Whiteley v Chappell (1868) and also R v Harris (1836) where the court strictly follows the literal rule throughout the case proceedings. Advantages of the literal rule includes that it encourages precision in drafting, brings certainty and also to withhold the parliamentary sovereignty. However this rule might inevitably lead to absurdity in more than one
Open Document