Statutory Law

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Submitted By adekinewlm
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The literal rule of statutory interpretation should be the first rule applied by judges. Under the literal rule, the words of the statute are given their natural or ordinary meaning. They don’t interpret meaning.
Lord Diplock in the Duport Steel v Sirs case (1980) defined the rule:
“Where the meaning of the statutory words is plain and unambiguous it is not then for the judges to invent fancied ambiguities as an excuse for failing to give effect to it’s plain meaning because they consider the consequences for doing so would be inexpedient, or even unjust or immoral.”
This definition says that a judge should not deviate from the literal meaning of the words even if the outcome is unjust. If they do they are creating their own version of how the case should turn out and the will of parliament is contradicted.
R v Harris (1836) 7 C & P 446 concerned a case where the defendant bit off his victim's nose. The statute made it an offence 'to stab cut or wound' the court held that under the literal rule the act of biting did not come within the meaning of stab cut or wound as these words implied an instrument had to be used. Therefore the defendant's conviction was quashed.
The golden rule is an exception to the literal rule and will be used where the literal should be used first, but if it results in absurdity, the grammatical and ordinary sense of the words may be modified, so as to avoid absurdity and inconsistency, but no further. So, The Golden Rule is a modification of The Literal Rule to be used to avoid an absurd outcome.
Re Sigsworth (1935) concerned a case where a son had murdered his mother. The mother had not made a will and under the Administration of Justice Act 1925 her estate would be inherited by her next of kin, i.e. her son. There was no ambiguity in the words of the Act, but the court was not prepared to let the son who had murdered his mother…...

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