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The Methods of Statutory Interpretation Available to the Judiciary - Essay Example

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The Methods of Statutory Interpretation Available to the Judiciary Introduction When the legislature passes law, the judiciary is tasked with interpreting and applying the statute to the facts and circumstances of the case to which the statute applies.1 Ultimately, the judiciary attempts to determine Parliament’s intention at the time of drafting and passing the relevant statute…
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Download file to see previous pages The primary rules are the mischief rule, the literary and the golden rule. The judiciary also uses what is referred to as the purposive approach and typically enter the statutory interpretation process based on a set of presumptions.4 This research study analyses how the judiciary uses these rules, presumptions and the purposive approach for maintain consistency in the application of statutes. Presumptions The judiciary applies presumptions to guide them in the construction of statutes. There are essentially six main presumptions used by the judiciary. The first well known presumption is the presumption that penal laws are interpreted “strictly in favour of the citizen”.5 In R v Cuthbertson the House of Lords construed the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in favour of the defendant. Under the 1971 Act, forfeiture was permitted in respect of any items the court felt were related to the offence. However, the House of Lords rules that since the provision did not state conspiracy to commit the offence, but rather specified the actual offence, forfeiture would not be permitted for a conspiracy offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.6 Other important presumptions include the presumption that statutes are not meant to alter the common law; statutory criminal offences are typically require the mental element of mens rea; Parliament does not intend to usurp the court’s jurisdiction; and statutes do not have “retrospective effect”.7 There are also a number of linguistic or language-based presumptions used by the judiciary in the interpretation of statutes. For example, the maxim noscitur a sociis dictates that words “take meaning from the context”.8 The maxim noscitur a sociis was applied in Muir v Keay in relation to the construction of the Refreshment Houses Act 1860. Under the 1860 Act houses to which the 1860 Act referred were house that provided refreshments, resort and entertainment to the public. It was held that entertainment in the context of the 1860 Act could not refer to theatre or music but rather applied to refreshment, reception and accommodations.9 Another instructive maxim related to the language of a statute used by the courts as a guide for the interpretation of statutes is expression unius exclusion alterius which means that: The express mention of one member of a class by implication excludes other members of the same class.10 For instance should a statute use the word “land” it can be assumed that land includes mines. However, if the word is grouped together with other words such as “lands, houses and coalmines” it can be assumed that the word land does not refer to any other mines aside from coalmines.11 The maxim ejusedem generis is also used by the judiciary as an aid in the interpretation and application of statutes by reference to the language used. The maxim ejusdem generis presumes that where a statute provides a list of specific words, any general term appearing at the end of the list will be interpreted by reference to the list of particularized words.12 Maxims are methods of linguistic interpretation that help the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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