Lecture 1 statutory interpretation on Literal Rule
Statutory Interpretation 27th January 2012 email@example.com
Lesson ObjectivesAll learners will be able: To understand what is statutory interpretation and why we need it.Most learners will be able: To understand the Literal Rule.Some learners will be able: To be able to apply the literal rule to different sources.
Stat Interpretation - What is it?Civil cases come before the courts because there is a disagreement between theparties either: WHAT HAS HAPPENED (FACT) or WHAT RULES APPLY TO SITUATION(POINT OF LAW).Courts have 2 roles – to decide issues of fact AND…? …to decide points of law!However at times there may be confusion as to what certain laws are meant whenthey were passed, and this is when judges need to interpret the statuteaccordingly.Criminal cases – issues of fact are sometimes decided by a ……….. Or inMagistrate’s court by a ………………………. But points of law are always decided byJudge.In civil cases a judge decides both issues.
Problems of interpreting statutes…What do you think makes the written law sounclear that the parties to a dispute can each have a valid but different view of the law? (POSTER 10 mins)
Problems of interpreting statutes…1. Language is not a precise tool. “It shall be a criminal offence for any vehicle to enter the park” What is a vehicle? Could we expect a vehicle for a disabled person from entering parks, or a child’s bicycle, or – Twining v Myers (1982) did roller skates amount to a vehicle? These are all open to debate depending on our interpretation of the word ‘vehicle’ therefore words often take their meaning from their context, so there are shades of meaning.
2. The meaning of words changes over time. When the Telegraph Act 1869 was passed the telephone had not been invented, so in subsequent cases it was necessary to extend certain provisions of the Act to cover telephone messages.3. The drafting of the legislation might have been hurried. When the courts need new laws, they need to pass a new law quickly through parliament. Nobody challenges the wording because everyone is happy with the purpose of the legislation. E.g. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 wording is unclear.
4. Unlike a conversation between two people, there is no recourse to the original speaker when the problem arises. There is no opportunity to say, ‘Excuse me, but I didn’t quite follow. What exactly did you mean by that?’ If confusion arises in a letter to a friend, it is not hard to write back. However in a game where there are rules, unless it is possible to contact the manufacturer, the players would be forced to make up their own extensions to the rules.
• Legislation may be applied in situations not envisaged by the legislators.• The way in which we interpret the meaning of any communication depends on who we are and what our past experiences have been.Any more?
Why do we need statutory interpretation? When problems arise interpreting statutes, courts do not have an immediate opportunity to contact Parliament because:a) It is a matter of practical policy not to put direct questions to Parliament.b) It is unlikely that the same members of Parliament would be available to be questioned. Therefore problems can arise when a judge has to decide whether a particular piece of legislation applies to the situation before court.
How does a judge interpret statute?1. Presumptions – what is this? A judge begins by assuming certain things. These will be taken true unless a good argument is given to demonstrate the presumption should not apply. Judges should construe the words of the statute in context and not in isolation – using internal and external aids to construction;
How does a judge interpret statute?2. Rules of languageEuisdem generis rule: where list is followed by general phrase, interpret general phrase in light of preceding words.• “Cat, dog, hamster and other animals” = other ‘domestic’ animals;• “House, shop, factory and other places” = other buildings.
Case for Euisdem generis rulePowell v Kempton Park Racecourse (1899): The words ‘other place’ were held to mean ‘other indoor place’ because the list referred to a ‘house, office, room or other place’ and ‘house’, ‘office’ and ‘room’ are all indoors.
Methods of Interpretation – Literal Rule The intention of Parliament is best achieved by giving the words their ordinary natural meaning wherever such words are capable of a literal meaning.Activity –Provide the literal meaning to the case, and decide whether Bloxham would be liable for theft.
Is Bloxham liable using literal rule? (5 mins)Apply the literal rule to this case:The Law:• S22 (1) Theft Act 1968: “A person handles stolen goods if … he dishonestly undertakes or assists in their … disposal by or for the benefit of another person.”Case:• R v Bloxham: Bloxham paid £500 for a car, and promised a further £800 once the log book was delivered. The log book was not delivered and Bloxham realised the car must have been stolen. Eventually he sold the car for £200.Is Bloxham liable for theft?
A literal approach to R v Bloxham• S22 Theft Act 1968 (1) “A person handles stolen goods if he dishonestly undertakes or assists in their disposal by or for the benefit of another person”.Answer: X is another person who benefited from buying a cheap car, therefore Bloxham is guilty.
Fisher v Bell (1960) –IMP CASE Apply the literal rule to see if the shopkeeper is liable.The Law: Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1951 – convict people who offer knives for sale . The Act intended to reduce the number of dangerous weapons available.Case: A shopkeeper displayed in his shop window flick knives with a price ticket behind it.
A literal approach to Fisher v Bell Defendant was initially charged, however on appeal he was acquitted because: He had not technically ‘offered’ the knives for sale, because under contract law, his display was an invitation to treat and it was the customers who were making the offers.Background of contract law – 3 stages:1. Invitation to treat – display on shelves/windows.2. Make offer – when go to the checkout.3. Acceptance & Consideration – payment for product. Court assumed that parliament knows the legal technical meaning of the word ‘offer’ so the Act was rendered ineffective here.
Activity Identify in your groups how the literal rule is interpreted.Make notes for each case, with reasoning, ready to discuss. (10 mins)
Answers:R v Harris (1835) – Harris was held not to have committed this offence, because the words read literally, indicated the use of an intrument to ‘stab, cut or wound’.Whiteley v Chappel (1868) – As dead people cannot vote, the defendant was held not to have committed an offence.
Answers:London and North Eastern Railway vBerriman (1946):He had been routine maintenance and oilingnot ‘relaying or repairing‘ tracks. So she wasnot entitled to compensation.
Answers:Procter & Gamble v HMRC :Held: Mr Justice Warren:• Pringles are not potato crisps because they are not made wholly or exclusively from potato, the potato content is less than 50%, they are also made from dough. Also distinguishing them from crisps is their packaging, and "unnatural shape”. What Pringles are made from was a question of law; which is found by combining two issues of fact; were they made of mostly of potato, in a way other crisps are made.• Regular Pringles are not potato crisps applying these tests.• Following the judgment, Pringles, in all flavours are free from Value Added Tax (VAT). Because they are manufactured from dough, “Pringles” are more like a cake or a biscuit.