Statutory Interpretation: The Literal Rule

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Statutory Interpretation: The Literal Rule

  1. 1. T heLiter alRuleMemory Game
  2. 2. “ If the words of an Act are clear then you must follow themeven though they lead to a manifest absurdity. The court has nothing to do with the question whether the legislature has committed an absurdity ”
  3. 3. vFacts: A man owned a shop and had a flick knife on display in the shopwindow. Attempts were made to prosecute him for offering for saleoffensive weapons.Held: He was not offering the knife for sale it was simply an invitation totreat.
  4. 4. House vFacts: The defendant pretended to be someone who had recently died inorder to use that person’s vote. It was an offence to “personate anyperson entitled to vote”.Held: As dead people cannot vote, the defendant was held not to havecommitted an offence.
  5. 5. vFacts: The claimant’s husband was killed while oiling points along arailway line. Compensation was only payable if he had been “relaying orrepairing” the line.The HL Held: oiling points was maintaining the line and not “relaying orrepairing”.
  6. 6. T heLiter alRuleAnswers
  7. 7. The literal rule involves givingthe words their plain, ordinaryliteral meaning.
  8. 8. The literal rule involves the judgeapplying The literal rule even if itresults in absurdity
  9. 9. Lord Esher in R vJudge of the City ofLondon (1892) “ If the words of an Act are clear then you must follow themeven though they lead to a manifest absurdity. The court has nothing to do with the question whether the legislature has committed an absurdity ”
  10. 10. This rule has historicaldominance
  11. 11. This rule respectsparliamentarysupremacy
  12. 12. Fisher v Bell vFacts: A man owned a shop and had a flick knife on display in the shopwindow. Attempts were made to prosecute him for offering for saleoffensive weapons.Held: He was not offering the knife for sale it was simply an invitation totreat.
  13. 13. Whiteley v Chappel House vFacts: The defendant pretended to be someone who had recently died inorder to use that person’s vote. It was an offence to “personate anyperson entitled to vote”.Held: As dead people cannot vote, the defendant was held not to havecommitted an offence.
  14. 14. LNER v Berriman vFacts: The claimant’s husband was killed while oiling points along arailway line. Compensation was only payable if he had been “relaying orrepairing” the line.The HL Held: oiling points was maintaining the line and not “relaying orrepairing”.
  15. 15. Problems with the rule are theissue of absurdity / injustice andlack of flexibility

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