Literal Rule Golden Rule and the Mischeif Rule
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When judges interpret statute, they have three rules to follow. These are the literal rule, the golden rule and the mischief rule. The whole reason these rules are here is to interpret laws so that the legislation serves its purpose of which it was introduced. The rules examine the wording of the particular statute and are the most common approach of interpretation of the English legal system. The three rules take different approaches in the interpretation and some judges use one rule while another prefers to use another rule. That is why we have three rules not just one. This means that in English law the interpretation of statute may differ depending on which judge is hearing the case. Once an interpretation has been made, a judge can form a new precedent for future cases in the same area of law. Since the three rules can result in very varied outcomes, it is important to understand the three rules. The LITERAL RULE means that judges will give the word its original and literal meaning even if the result is not sensible or unfair.
If the wording of the provision is capable of one meaning then you can choose from those meanings but go no further. The second view can be applied wider and means that if the meaning of the word is clear then that must be followed unless this would result in an unfair result. Then the golden rule can be applied wider and the meaning can be modified to make it and fair situation and to avoid and unfair situation. A good clear example would be In the case of Sigsworth. This was a case of murder and inheritance. Under s.46 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925, a person, could not inherit the estate of the decease if they had murdered that other person, otherwise the murderer would benefit from his/her crime. The MISCHIEF RULE is the oldest rule and gives the judge more flexibility and discretion in court that the other two rules. It is sometimes referred to as the rule in Heydon's case ((1584). It can be by the court used to interpret a statue but must consider the common law before the act was introduced.
If we look at this case in the eyes of the golden rule, it would still be a not guilty result as they still take the word literally. The mischief rule gave them more flexibility to look at what the act was aiming to achieve therefore was successful. The three rules give very different outcome because the literal rule means you can only take the meaning of the word and apply it to the case in hand. Where the golden rule allows a little more flexibility as it can avoid an unfair result. The mischief rule is the oldest and most effective rule because it allows discretion and lots of flexibility to achieve the right results and fill in any gaps in the law. Still because words can have different meanings and the meaning of the word can change depending on its context, it is important to have established and understood rules of interpretation. Therefore, need for interpretation is obvious. In many instances, the wording in a statue can be ambiguous, obscure and meaningless. In order for Judges to determine the meaning of legislation, they approach it through the rules of construction. Robbie Higginson Law 1 15 January 2002 Question five
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