STATUTORY INTERPRETATIONStatutory interpretation1notes the procedure that a court focuses at a statute and establishes what itmeans. A statute, which is a bill or law passed by the legislature, forces dutyand rules on the people. Although they make the law, statutes may be open to clarificationand have ambiguities. The judiciary may apply rules of statutoryinterpretation both to an enactment by the legislature and to representativelegislation suchas administrative agency regulations, in common law authorities.
Statutory interpretation first became notable in common law systems, withEngland being the ideal example. In Roman and Civil law, a statute or code directsthe magistrate, but there is no previous legal case. In Britain, Parliamenthistorically were unsuccessful to enact a complete code of legislation, whichis the reason why the courts were left to develop the common law; and havingdecided a case and the cause of the decision, it would become binding on latercourts.Correspondingly, a specific interpretation of a statute would alsobecome permanent, and it was necessary to establish a stable structure for statutoryinterpretation. During, the construction of statutes the English courtsdeveloped rules to assist them in the task.
These were: Primary Rules1. Literal Rule 2. Mischief rule3.
Golden rule 4. Rule of Harmonious Construction Secondary Rules 1. Noscitur a sociis2.
Ejusdem Generis3. Reddendo Singula SingulisThe judiciary interpretshow legislation should apply in a particular case as no legislation straightforwardand particular that addresses all circumstances. The court must try todetermine how a statute should be enforced.
This requires statutoryconstruction. It is a tenet of statutory construction that the legislature issupreme when creating law and that the court is merely an interpreter of thelaw. Nevertheless, in practice, by performing the construction the court canmake sweeping changes in the operation of the law. The literal rule The literal rule2when faced with a piece of legislation, the courts are required to interpretits meaning so that they can apply it to the facts of the case before them. Thecourts have developed a range of rules of interpretation to assist them. Whenthe literal rule is applied the words in a statute are given their ordinary andnatural meaning, in an effort to respect the will of Parliament.
Fisher v Bell (1960). The golden rule The golden rule under thegolden rule for statutory interpretation, where the literal rule gives anabsurd result, which Parliament could not have intended, the judge cansubstitute a reasonable meaning in the light of the statute as a whole. Adler v George (1964) The mischief rule The mischief rule forinterpreting statutes requires judges to consider three factors: 1. What the law was before the statute waspassed; 2. What problem (or mischief) the statute wastrying to remedy; 3. What remedy Parliament was trying to provideHeydon’s case (1584) 3 Co.
Rep. 7a, 7b The purposive approach Over the last three decades, the courts have accepted thatthe literal approach can be unsatisfactory. Instead, the judges have beenincreasingly influenced by the European approach to statutory interpretationwhich focuses on giving effect to the purpose of the legislation.
R (Quintavalle) v Secretary of State for Health (2003)