Interpretation of Statutes (English Law)


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An introduction to interpretation of Statutes

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Interpretation of Statutes (English Law)

  2. 2. • A statute is simply the will of the legislature• The function of the court is to interpret the statute according to the intent of them that made it• Courts are bound to endeavor to place some meanings upon words used in statutes. In so doing it gives effect, as the judges have repeatedly declared, to the intention of the Parliament, but it may only elicit that intention from the actual words of the statute.• There is one rule of interpretation for statutes and other documents that you must not imply anything in them which in inconsistent with the words expressly used• If language is clear and explicit, the court must give effect to it, “ for in that case the words of the statute speak the intention of the Legislature”• The function of the court is jus dicere, not jus dare• The words of the statute must not be overruled by the courts but the reforms in the law shall be left in the hands of the parliament
  3. 3. • Generally statutes are cited by their short titles or more precisely by the year and their passing and their chapter numbers.• After the title the date on which statute receives the royal assent is inserted and the statute is assigned a Chapter number• Normally statutes are numbered serially throughout the year• Acts are of following kinds; • Public Acts form series one and are numbered in large Arabic characters • Provisional order confirmation Acts and Local Acts form a second series and are numbered in small Roman characters • Personal Acts form third series and are numbered in small
  4. 4. • Statutes are either Public or Private• Public Statutes relate to some public matter and do not have to formally be proved before a court of Law• Private Acts on the other hand are construed in more restrictive spirit than public statutes and must be proved through exemplification, transcript, or an examined or certified copy of the original from the Record Office or the Clerk of the Parliament.
  5. 5. • All Acts have both long and short titles.• The long title is set out at the head of the statute and gives a fairly full description and general purpose of the Act.• The modern view is that the Title is an important part of the statute and can be referred to as an aid in the construction of an act/Statute.• Long title normally starts in these word “An Act to provide security for the tenure for occupying tenants under certain leases of residential property at low rents”• Long title though can be looked at for resolving an ambiguity yet it may not be looked at to modify the interpretation of plain language.• Short title is generally found in a section near the end of the Act.• Short title may not be taken into account in constructing a statute.• Short titles is normally applied solely for the purpose of facility
  6. 6. • It defines the main objects of the Act and are considered as an aid in interpretation of statutes• Preambles are however, same in weight as of enacting provisions• Where there are obscure or vague enacting word, it is then you have to look into the preamble to resolve that issue• If the enacting words are able of one construction, that construction will receive the effect even if it is in consistent with the preamble
  7. 7. • These are normally printed at the side of the Act with a view to help to summarize the effect of the section• Notes are not the part of the statute therefore, should not be considered in construction of the statute.• Headings are regarded as preambles of the sections• Heading cannot control the plain words of the statute but they may explain ambiguous words.• A heading of one group of sections cannot be used as an aid for interpretation of another group of sections.
  8. 8. • They are as much part of an Act as any other part can be• They can be used in constructing provision in the body of the Act• Similarly, provisions in a schedule will be construed in the light of what is enacted in the sections• Within a schedule ambigous words may be constructed by reference to the cross-headings
  9. 9. • Punctuation is disregarded in construction of the statutes• The irrelevance of punctuation has two consequences;• First-A provision in the statute must be read as though the punctuation which appears on the face of the Act were omitted.• Secondly- When it is necessary to give a provision particular construction which is at variance with the way in which the section is punctuated, it may be read as though there were in fact punctuation where non appears on the face of the Act.
  10. 10. • Statutes take effect without promulgation or other proclamation, and as soon the parliament has concluded any thing, the law presumes every person has notice of it at once.• Suppose by legal fiction according to which the whole session of the Parliament was regarded as having being held on its first day, statute were, in the absence of provision to the contrary, constructed as taking effect from the first day of the session.• Where a Bill to continue an Act which is to expire in the same session does not receive the Royal Assent unitll the Act has expired, the continuing Act, shall effect from the date of expiration, except that in does not affect any person with any punishment for any breach of the Act so continued between the expiration of the earlier and the
  11. 11. • There is no doctrine of desuetude in English Law• The common law rule was that if an Act expired or was repealed it was regarded, in the absence of provision to the contrary, as having never been existed, except as to matters and transactions past and closed.• Under section 38(2) of the Interpretation Act such repealing Acts are , unless the contrary intention appears, not to • (b) Affect the previous operation of any enactment so repealed or anything duly done or suffered under any enactment so repealed or • © Affect any right, privilege, obligation or liabilility acquired, accrued , or incurred under any enactment so repealed or • (d) Affect any penalty, forfeiture, or punishment incurred in respect of any offence committed against any enactment so repealed or • (e) Affect any investigation, legal proceding or remedy in respoct of any such right, privilege, obligation, liability, penalty, forfeiture, or punishment as afore said.
  12. 12. • When an Act is repealed, any delegated legislation made under the Act falls to ground with the statute unless it is expressly preserved• Where the subordinate legislation is continued in force, however, the general rule is that its scope and construction are determined according to the repealed Act under which it was made• Where an Act passed after 1850 repeals another in whole or in part and substitutes some provision or provisions in lieu of that is repealed, the repealed enactment continues in force until what has been substituted comes into operation• When the interpretation Act or any Act passed after its commencement repeals and re-enacts, with or without modification, any provisions of a former Act, references in nay other Act to the provisions so repealed are, unless the contrary intention appears, to be construed as references to the provisions so re-enacted.
  13. 13. • Where an Act is repealed and the repealing enactment is then repealed by another, which manifests no intention that the original Act shall continue repealed, the common law rule was that the repeal of the second Act revived the first ab-initio• This view was altered in 1850 and now “repeals a repealing enactment, it shall not be construed as reviving any enactment previously repealed unless words are added reviving that enactment
  14. 14. • A consolidating statute is one which collects the statutary provisions relating to a particular topic, and embodies them in a single Act of parliament, making only minor amendments and improvements
  15. 15. • A codifying statute is one which purports to state exhaustively the whole of the law upon a particular subject, the draftsman attempting to subsume in his code both the pre-existing provisions (as in a consolidating Act) and also the common law rules relating to the matter.• A codifying Act is approached in quite a different spirit from consolidating Act.