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Most cases that reach our higher courts concern the interpretation, that is to say the meaning, of words in a statute. The reasons vary

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1a) Most cases that reach our higher courts concern the interpretation, that is to say the meaning, of words in a statute. The reasons vary, for example words may be ambiguous Fisher v Bell; or broad or Parliamentary Counsel may have made a drafting error (Inco Europe v First Choice Distribution); or overtaken by technology (Royal College of Nursing v Department of Health). Over the years, the courts have established three rules to resolve these problems, namely the literal, golden and mischief rules. The literal rule was developed two hundred years ago and it is based on the strict constitutional notion of Parliamentary supremacy. Arguably, an absurd result was achieved in Fisher v Bell (the flick-knives case) ...read more.


That said, the starting point to interpretation is that judges should, in the words of Lord Reid, 'look at the natural and ordinary meaning of that word or phrase in its context in the statute' in interpreting same (Pinner v Everett). Further, in line with the purposive approach, words in an Act may be added or omitted to give effect to the intentions of Parliament. However, there are strict rules which were laid down in Inco Europe. Here, Lord Nicholls stated that the court must be abundantly sure of the intended purpose of the statute; that by mistake Parliament failed to give effect to that purpose; and, crucially, the substance of the wording that Parliament would have used. The golden rule was developed in the nineteenth century. ...read more.


It permits judges to interpret a statute quite widely where the intention of the statute has been to put an end to some mischief. The limits of this rule have never been laid out, though in Jones v Wrotham Park Settled Estates, Lord Diplock laid out three circumstances where it may apply: if it is possible to determine from the Act the precise mischief that the Act was to remedy; if it was an accident that the mischief had not been resolved by the Act's literal meaning; and if it is possible to say with certainty what additional words would have been inserted by draftsmen and approved by Parliament. The rule was used to gain a conviction under the Street Offences Act 1959 in Smith v Hughes. how a person is found guilty they use different approaches. These are used in different situations. ...read more.

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