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Statutory Interpretation

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Discuss the rules and other aids used in statutory interpretation which the judges could use to help them arrive at a decision in each of the appeals. You should also pay attention to judicial precedent and assess whether the case that the appellants wish to use may be binding on the Court of Appeal. This case study will investigate how certain rules or aids in statutory interpretation can affect the decision of an appeal in court due to the different circumstances involved in a case.

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There will be three main cases that will be discussed in order to gain an insight into how different rules used in law; such as the mischief rule, literal rule and golden rule can affect how certain legislation can be interpreted within various cases. It’s important to consider judicial precedent and how it can influence the decisions made by a judge in a court of law, along with looking at the way in which laws can be misleading due to the way they are worded and interpreted by an individual.

When looking at statutory interpretation it’s vital to understand that some statutes can be straight forward and have a simplistic meaning, however this is not always the case as there can be confusion over the true meaning of various statutes; words can become ambiguous, meaning that there can be misperceptions made about whether or not individuals are right in their appeals. When in court it is usually the judge that will apply and interpret the legislation given to them, thus making their decision based on what is seen as the most likely meaning of an original statute when it was processed.

The use of judicial precedent is significant when dealing with a majority of court cases as it is based on the rule of stare decisis, meaning ‘let the decision stand’. This shows that what is decided by a court in the past should not be disregarded when looking into similar cases in lower courts. Although when any decision is made it is vital that Ratio decidendi is applied, this means that any points made in the case must be stated in order for the verdict to hold relevance.

Similarly Obiter dictum can be used, however it is just an observation made by a judge and doesn’t automatically link up with the courts final decision. To help establish how to interpret the legislation there are three rules in place, the first being the literal rule; which states that when looking at a statute it should be taken on board in a precise form and shouldn’t deviate from its original meaning.

Whereas one of the other rules is the golden rule which is where the judge is able to proceed with the case in the way they would interpret best to avoid an illogical outcome. The final rule is the mischief rule; which can be used when a statute is approved to remedy a flaw in the common law, meaning that a judge is able to interpret what they believe parliament’s intentions were when making the statute.

The litter act states that: (1) It shall be an offence to drop litter in a public place (2) Litter means bottles, papers or other such items In the case of Jamal, where he was arrested, convicted and appeals the decision; as he was walking and his shopping dropped over the floor, due to the bag splitting. He could argue that in this instance it was not his fault that the bag wasn’t strong enough to hold his items and that there is a possibility that the manufacturer of the bags should be addressed instead of him.

It could be questioned as to whether Jamal can be held responsible for the conviction given to him as the legislation states that it is an offence to drop litter in a public place, and in this instance the shopping bag split; therefore he didn’t “drop” anything with intent. This would suggest that the rule most relevant to the case would be the golden rule and mischief rule as a judge would take into account that Jamal didn’t deliberately drop his shopping but accidently split the bag in which he was carrying his items.

Therefore the judge would interpret the statute as being irrational and ambiguous in this case due to the circumstances that caused Jamal to be convicted. Another case is that of Julia, who was walking whilst carrying a folder of papers when the wind blew them out of her hands and into the street; she was then stopped, arrested, convicted and then made an appeal as she could argue that she couldn’t control the weather as there were strong winds that affected her grip of her folder, thus it would have been difficult to avoid this situation.

When looking into Julia’s case it’s clear that she didn’t “drop” any paper but that the weather was beyond her control and she had lost grip of the folder, this would mean that the most appropriate rule to be used in this instance is the golden rule as it would be absurd to convict Julia of something that she was unable to stop. Therefore in reflection it would be more suitable for a judge to use the golden rule allowing ‘judges to depart from the ordinary meaning of the word’ according to Akhtar and Ward (2011).

One of the other instances is the case of Junita, who fell asleep whilst on a park bench and the fish and chips wrapper she was holding in her hands had fallen on the floor, leading to her being arrested, convicted and appealing the decision as she could have maintained that she was unaware that she had been littering and this led to her unintentionally dropping her rubbish. On the other hand it could be argued that she no longer needed the fish and chips wrapper as it had no further use, so by dropping it on the floor she was disposing of the rubbish.

Therefore when the case is taken to court it would seem that the most appropriate rule to use in this occurrence would be the literal rule so ‘the ordinary and natural meaning of the language should be used in the statute’ according to Akhtar and Ward (2011). Through using the literal rule in cases such as Junita’s the statute can produce a rational interpretation that could give a fair outcome to the end of the trial.

When looking at the counsel that wishes to cite a Canadian Supreme Court case can be seen as irrelevant due to the fact that Canada is not part of the European Union, therefore their assessments in previous court cases cannot be counted and have no connection to the judicial precedent in cases provided. In conclusion the literal, golden and mischief rules can be used in court to support the statutory interpretations of statutes as they can give judges a better understanding of how to review any cases where statutes are unclear or out of date.

In the cases of Jamal and Julia it is clear that there is uncertainty as to whether they were actually littering, due to the fact that the items that had fallen on the pavement weren’t pieces of rubbish but could have been important documents or shopping, this in turn could show that when the statute was drafted there is a possibility that errors were made as it doesn’t specify what is actually counted as litter as the explanation is too broad, through using terms such as ‘litter means bottles, papers or other such items’, this makes it unclear as to whether items from Jamal and Julia’s cases could come under this category.

On the other hand in the case of Junita, there is no evidence to show that when she awoke she wouldn’t have picked the wrapper up and put it in the bin, therefore the choice to convict her was based up on an assumption, which isn’t reliable enough in try in court.

Through looking at these three cases it is shown that the literal, golden and mischief rules can be helpful in statutory interpretation as it becomes easier to grasp whether or not in the case of the litter statute, the rules could be applied to ensure that the correct judgement is given to any individual being tried in a court of law. Bibliography Akhtar, A. and Ward, R. (2011) Walker & Walker’s English Legal System. 11th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

Cite this Statutory Interpretation

Statutory Interpretation. (2016, Nov 11). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/statutory-interpretation/

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