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Literal Rule. The literal rule was used in a case called Berriman v NE Railway Company (1946),

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Introduction

´╗┐Literal Rule The literal rule is a simple rule. Words should be given their plain, ordinary, literal meaning, even if the result is not very sensible. The reason this rule exists is because it would be wrong for the courts to guess what Parliament actually meant when the act was passed. The literal rule was used in a case called Berriman v NE Railway Company (1946), a railway worker was killed by a train while doing maintenance work, oiling points along a railway line. Berriman?s widow tried to claim compensation because there had not been a lookout man provided by the railway company as stated in the Fatal Accidents Act. ...read more.

Middle

an offence to impersonate ?any person entitled to vote.? The defendant had pretended to be a person whose name was on the voters list, but who had died. The court held that the defendant was not guilty since a dead person is not in the literal meaning of the words ?entitled to vote.? This shows how the literal meaning of the words can change the case. Cheeseman v Director of Public Prosecutions. (1990) Police officers were sent to ?stake out? a public toilet and try and catch the offender, they witnessed a man who indecently exposed himself to them. They arrested him. The defendant was charged under section 28 of the Town Causes Act 1847 with ?willfully and indecently exposing his person in a street to the annoyance of passengers.? This case illustrates several of the problems of statutory interpretation. ...read more.

Conclusion

rule, this is when a word has more than one meaning, and it may be difficult to decide which meaning should be used. A risk to using the literal rule is that words in the English language can change meanings over time, which means when judges look up a word from an Act they need to make sure the dictionary is from the same year in which the Act was passed. ?If the words of an act are clear then you must follow them even though they lead to a manifest absurdity. The court has nothing to do with the question whether the legislature has committed an absurdity.? This idea was expressed by Lord Esher in R v judge of the City of London Court (1892). ...read more.

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