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Describe and illustrate the various approaches a judge may use to decide the meaning of a statute. Illustrate your answers with cases.

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Introduction

Law A) Describe and illustrate the various approaches a judge may use to decide the meaning of a statute. Illustrate your answers with cases. When a judge comes to deciding upon a case he must apply the necessary legislation, and although it is drafted clearly and with great detail, problems can sometimes arise in the interpretation of what the actual law is. Sometimes the problem can be that the language of the statute could be misunderstood, or not clear enough to what is actually meant. For example, in the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861, it was stated that, 'whosoever, being married, shall marry any other person during the life of the former husband or wife shall be guilty of bigamy.' But what does the word marry mean? The problems arise when information is misinterpreted, and there are three reasons why this may occur- 1) The statute is complicated and of a difficult mixture of ordinary and technical language 2) It may be concerned with the regulation of future conduct, and as the ability of draughtsmen to anticipate the future is limited, it will be difficult to decide whether a particular provision applies to a particular case 3) It is often concerned with regulating competing interests where the people concerned have a self interest in promoting different interpretations It is up to the courts, and therefore the judges, to decide the definitive definition when these problems arise. ...read more.

Middle

However, the court held that 'offers for sale must be given its ordinary meaning in law and that in contract law, this was not an offer for sale, but an invitation to people to make an offer to buy.' The defendant was therefore found not guilty of the offence even though this is what the act was set up to stop. 2) Golden approach This approach means the court must give the statute words their literal meaning unless the outcome would cause an absurdity; in this case a more appropriate approach may be taken e.g. in R V Allen 1972 when the word 'marry' was interpreted as meaning 'to go through a ceremony of marriage,' because to use its literal meaning would make the offence of bigamy impossible to commit. In Maddox V Storer 1963, the vehicle in the case was a minibus made to carry eleven passengers rather than altered to do so, yet under the Road Traffic Act 1960, it was an offence to drive at more than 30mph in a vehicle only 'adapted to carry more than 7 passengers.' However, the court held that 'adapted to' could mean 'suitable for.' 3) The Mischief (or modern purposive) approach This is when the courts interpret the words in the way that is most likely to promote the purpose for the legislation, and not only the words should be considered, but also what Parliament would have been aiming to achieve from the statute. ...read more.

Conclusion

R V Inhabitants of Sedgeley 1831, when the words used in the Act were 'lands, tithes and coalmines,' and it was decided that the act did not apply to any other kind of mine. The third principle is 'Noscitur a sociis,' which means a word known by its associates, i.e. it must be used in context. E.g. Pengelly V Bell Punch Company Ltd 1964, when the words of the Factories Act 1961, 'all floors, steps, stairs, passages and gangways must be kept free of obstruction' were disputed to whether general parts of areas used for storage would be included. It was held by the court that storage areas would not be included under these words, as all the others in the section referred to parts of the factory along which workers were intended to pass. All these above aids help judges to interpret statutes in cases where the words may be disputable, and help to give a reasonable interpretation for all parties concerned, according to parliamentary law as it was intended to be. B) Explain what is meant by 'extrinsic' and 'intrinsic' aids to the interpretation of statutes. Consider how useful they are in assisting judges to interpret Acts of Parliament. Extrinsic and intrinsic aids are the two categories in which the material falls which the courts are able to use to help with interpretation of legislation. There are restrictions on the material available and so come under two different types. ...read more.

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