2 Lesson ObjectivesI will be able to explain the different aids to interpretationI will be able to explain the different rules of languageI will be able to explain how cases illustrate aids to interpretation and rules of language
3 IntroductionThere are certain materials both inside and outside the Act that the judge can refer to which help him/her interpret the words or provisions of the Act. These are known as ‘aids to interpretation’. There are two types of aids: intrinsic and extrinsic.
4 Aids to interpretation Intrinsic aidsAnything within the Act itself:PreambleLong titleDefinition sectionsOther sectionsObjectives section (if there is one)SchedulesMargin notes or headingsOther aids:Latin Rules of LanguagePresumptionsExtrinsic aids Matters outside the Act:Previous Acts on the same pointInterpretation ActEarlier case lawDictionaries, including those of the time when the act was passedHansard – Pepper v HartLaw Commission reports – Black ClawsonInternational treaties, etc. – Fothergill v Monarch AirlinesExplanatory notes for billsTextbooks – Re Castioni (1891)
5 Intrinsic aidsIntrinsic aids are sources within the Act (internal aids).
6 PreambleOlder statutes may contain a preamble which is a statement preceding the main body of the Act, setting out the purpose of the Act in detail.Newer Acts may contain an objectives or purposes section at the beginning.
7 Long TitleThe long and/or short title of the Act may be referred to as guidance. The long title of the Abortion Act 1967 is:‘An Act to amend and clarify the law relating to termination of pregnancy by registered medical practitioners’.Royal College of Nursing of the UK v DHSS (1981) – referred to this
8 Definition SectionsMost modern Acts contain a special interpretation definition section, which explains the meaning of key words used in the Act – Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996
9 PunctuationPunctuation is now recognised to have an effect on the meaning of words and can be taken into account in determining the meaning of statutory provisions. – Hanlon v The Law Society (1981) – Lord Lowry’s talk
10 Objectives SectionAs mentioned earlier, some new acts will have an objectives or purposes section – Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006“The principle purpose of this Act is to enhance the United Kingdom’s contribution to combating climate change.”
11 SchedulesSchedules appear as additions to the main body of the Act. These can be referred to in order to make some sense of the main text.In some cases it will be necessary to refer to the Schedules to understand the Act.E.g. Hunting Act 2004“Hunting is exempt if it is within a class specified in Schedule 1.”
12 Margin notes or headings Judges can use margin notes or headings to aid them when interpreting the law.
13 Extrinsic aidsExtrinsic aids are sources outside the Act (external aids).
14 Previous Acts on the same point Previous Acts may be referred to. Wheatley (1979) – The Court of Appeal had to interpret the provisions of the Explosive Substances Act The long title of the Act was ‘An Act to amend the law relating to explosive substances, amending the Explosives Act 1875’. The Court of Appeal therefore looked at the earlier Act to make sense of the 1883 Act.
15 Interpretation ActThe Interpretation Act 1978 provides definition of certain words which are often used in Acts. E.g. it provides that masculine shall include the feminine, and singular words include the plural unless a contrary intention appears within the Act.Section 6:In any Act, unless the contrary appears,Words importing the masculine gender include feminineWords importing the feminine gender include masculineWords in the singular include the plural and words in the plural include the singular
16 The Interpretation Act 1978 e.g. “he” means “he” or “she” unless otherwise specified;a singular noun means singular or plural as relevant unless otherwise specified;etc.
17 DictionariesDictionaries can be used to find the literal meaning of words.Vaughn v Vaughn (1973) – the Court of Appeal had to interpret the word ‘molest’.Husband went to wife’s house, who was afraid of him and he had been violent to and had an injunction against him, early in morning and late at night. He claimed he wasn’t molesting her.The judges consulted a dictionary which gave the definition ‘to cause trouble, vex, annoy, or put to inconvenience’ and held the defendant’s acts did amount to molestation.
18 HansardCourts have been able to refer to Parliamentary debates recorded in Hansard since Pepper v Hart (1993).However, the House of Lords in this case held that Hansard can only be referred to in certain circumstances:The Act must be ambiguous or obscure, or a literal interpretation would lead to an absurdityJudges may look only at statements made by a Minister or other promoter of the BillThe statements must be clear in order for them to be relied upon
19 Law Commission Reports The court may look at reports of the Law Commission, Royal Commission and other official law reform bodies. A Law Commission Report can highlight what is wrong with the old law and suggest options. A report usually includes a draft Bill.
20 International Treaties International Treaties may be referred to in order to ascertain the overriding objective of the Treaty which the Act is intended to comply with. This will often arise when judges are interpreting EU law.
21 Explanatory NotesSince 1999, Acts have been issued with explanatory notes. These are not part of the Act, hence they are external. They are written by the Government department responsible for the Act once it has been given Royal Assent.
22 Text booksText books may be referred to for guidance as to the meaning of a word or phrase. – Re Castioni (1891) – J.F. Stephen referred to his own text ‘History of the Criminal Law of England’ when interpreting the words ‘political crime’.
23 Other aids to interpretation Latin rules of languagePresumptions
24 PresumptionsJudges make presumptions about the wording of a statute. They know that:the common law has not been changed unless the Actclearly states to the contrarya criminal offence requires mens rea (a guilty mind)the law should not act retrospectivelyThe Crown is not bound
25 Latin rules of language In addition to the four main rules, there are other rules of language, sometimes referred to as subsidiary rules:ejusdem generis (Powell v Kempton Park Racecourse)expressio unius est exclusio alterius (Inhabitants of Sedgley (1837))noscitur a sociis (Muir v Keay)
26 The ejusdem generis rule Under this rule, where general words follow particular words, the general words are interpreted to be of the same kind as the particular words.E.g. ‘dogs, cats and other animals’The particular words are dogs and cats.The general words are other animals.Under ejusdem generis, the general words would be interpreted in line with the particular words. Therefore as dogs and cats are domestic animals, the general words of ‘other animals’ would be interpreted to mean other domestic animals.
27 Powell v Kempton Park Rac e Course (1899) ‘house, office or other place’ for betting purposesDefendant’s betting purposes were open –air and not enclosed. Ejusdem generis was applied and defendant not liable.
28 Expressio unius est exclusio atterius This means the expression of one thing implies the exclusion of another. Where particular words are used and these are not followed by general words, the Act applies only to the instances specified (the particular words). E.g. Inhabitants of Sedgley (1837) – rates were charged on ‘land, titles and coal mines.’ Therefore rates could not be charged on any mine other than coal mines.
29 Noscitur a sociisUnder this ‘rule’ the meaning of a word is to be gathered from the context in which it is written. E.g. Refreshment Houses Act 1860 – stated that all houses, rooms and shops or buildings kept open for ‘entertainment’ during certain hours of the night must be licensed.In Muir v Keay (1975) – defendant kept his cafe open to the public during the night without a license. The court applied the rule and held that ‘entertainment’ in the context of the Act did not mean only musical or theatrical entertainment, but meant other forms of enjoyment, such as drinking coffee late at night – therefore defendant had committed an offence under the Act.
30 Three rules of language Ejusdem generis – For a list of words followed by general words, the general words are limited to the same kind of items as those in the listPowell v Kempton Park Racecourse: all the “places for betting” listed were indoors, so the place mentioned had to be indoors too. It was not and so was not affected by the statuteExpressio unius exclusio alterius – To mention one thing / some things is to exclude other things. If there is a list, but no general words, then only the items in the list are includedTempest v Kilner: only “goods, wares and merchandise” were affected by the statute, because only they were mentioned – not stocks or sharesThree rules of languageNoscitur a sociis – Consider the context: words cannot be considered in isolation. They are known by the company they keepIRC v Frere: “interest, annuities or other annual interest” affected only annual interest, not any other sort
31 Step-by-step problem-solving in statutory interpretation Use the Interpretation Act 1978 (throughout)Define the literal approach. Tell the reader it includes three rules of interpretationTry the literal, golden and mischief rules in turnIf a sensible result is achieved, stop; if absurd, go on to the nextUse the rules of language to help you with each rule of interpretation, and possibly internal aidsPurposive approach: defineTry the purposive approach, using both internal and external aidsRemember throughout that judges very rarely find the meaning of a statute to be absurd: they certainly do not set out to do so, and neither should youRemember too that there are special rules for some cases, e.g.European matters use the purposive approachJudges may now refer to Hansard even though they use the literal approach (Pepper v Hart)Etc.NB Always explain fully what you are doing, using case examples