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Statutory Interpretation

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Statutory Interpretation Mehzeb Rahman Chowdhury The basis of English law is unwritten. It was developed by the judges over the centuries and historically, customs are believed to have been very important in forming the basis of English law. This eventually evolved into what is known as common law today. However, Parliamentary law is sovereign over the all other forms of law in England and Wales. By this we mean that an Act of Parliament can completely supersede any custom, judicial precedent, delegated legislation or previous Act of Parliament. The only exception to this is European Community legislation, which effectively overrides the powers of the domestic legislative bodies. The courts of England can question the validity of delegated legislation using the judicial review procedure, although it must be noted that courts cannot challenge an Act of Parliament. Both statutes and delegated legislation have to be interpreted by the courts, as even the simplest statement may be capable of bearing different meanings. However, even with the assistance of provisions such as the Interpretation Act 1978, the courts still had to develop approaches to interpretation. These include the three main cannons of construction, which tend to be referred to as the three main rules of interpretation. Sir Rupert Cross held that there are was an unified approach to interpretation and that the various rules should not be considered in isolation. Under this, the judge should start by considering the grammatical and ordinary meaning of the words; if this would produce a result which is contrary to the purpose of the Act, the judge may then apply any secondary meaning which the words are ...read more.


to oust the jurisdictions of courts * that a statute does not have retrospective effect Internal aids refers to matters contained within the statute which may help in explaining the words in question. These include long titles, short titles, the preamble of the Act, other relevant sections, especially an interpretation section, headings, punctuations, and schedules. External aids are matters outside the Act, i.e. all the written documents which may be helpful to the judges in interpreting the statute. These include dictionaries, the historical setting of the law, previous statutes, past cases, documents such as international treaties which led to the passing of the Act, textbooks on the relevant issue, Law Reform Reports, and Hansard. In the Black Clawson case the judges in the House of Lords disallowed the use of Hansard for domestic legislation, but allowed it for EC laws. The usage of reports by such bodes as the Law Commission, to discover the mischief that Parliament was trying to correct, were also allowed, but not to find the Parliament's intension. Before 1972, the UK courts refused to follow purposive approach to interpret statutes. Following the UK's entry into the EU, the UK court's had no choice but to interpret the newly binding EC law with respect to the purposive approach, where the purpose of the Act itself is considered, and not the literal word-by-word meaning. Under s.2(4) European Communities Act 1972 the Courts are obliged to give a purposive interpretation to European Community (EC) law, and this has been extended to UK law that was passed to implement EC law. ...read more.


This aspect of the Prevention of Terrorism Act was introduced because the detention without trial of ten foreigners at HM Prison Belmarsh under Part IV of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, was held to be unlawful under human rights legislation, and the ECHR (article 14). Other recent judicial events also indicate that the judiciary is now more robust to defend and safeguard human rights by utilizing s.3 HRA as a radical tool. The House of Lords held in A and Others v Secretary of State for the Home Department that Part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, under whose powers a number of non-UK nationals were detained in Belmarsh Prison, was incompatible with the Human Rights Act. The case resulted in a unanimous decision of the House of Lords where it was held that evidence obtained by the government through torture is inadmissible in court. The decision overturned a Court of Appeal decision from 2002 where they held that such evidence could be used so long as it was obtained by those who were not agents of the British state. This precipitated the enactment of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 to replace Part 4 of the 2001 Act. However, built-in measures within the Human Rights Act itself have left the door open for judges, and the law makers to disregard certain aspects of human rights, if time warrants such actions. Section 14 of HRA states that under emergency circumstances (such as war or civil unrest) one or more rights under the HRA can be suspended. Therefore, if the Crown can effectively show that there is an emergency situation persisting, then, human rights may be under serious jeopardy. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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