The literal rule means the interpretation of statutes, or word or words therein, purely according to their literal meaning. “It means following the literal, ordinary or natural meaning of words” (Statutory Interpretation, online guide, viewed 20 December 2007, http://www. richinstyle. com/masterclass/smallerblack/interpretation. html). This rule applies when the language of the law is clear and unambiguous such that it leaves no room for interpretation. Thus, according to Jervis CJ in Abley v.
Dale (1857), “If the precise words used are plain and unambiguous, in our judgement we are bound to construe them in their ordinary sense, even though it does lead to an absurdity or manifest injustice. ” This rule has advantages and disadvantages. As for the first, “it results in a quick decision because the meaning can be found in a dictionary or ordinary source. It respects parliamentary supremacy because a judge’s function is to apply the words of Parliament and not to make law” (AS Law: Sources of Law and Law Making, online guide, viewed 20 December 2007, <http://www. philipallan.
co. uk/images/614-T2. pdf>) As for the second, it may produce such evil as owing to too much reliance on the literal meaning of words in a statute. Thus, the literal meaning “can produce absurd outcomes, create injustice and result in outcomes that do not match parliamentary intentions” (Ibid). A case in point is Whitley v. Chappel (1868) 4 LRQB 147. This involved a statute which declared illegal the impersonation of any person entitled to vote. The defendant herein impersonated a dead person who, according to the court, apparently using the literal rule, was not entitled to vote.
Therefore, the defendant was acquitted. Come now the case of Charles. Under the literal rule, Charles should be found guilty of an offense under the Vehicles in City Centres Act. The Act defines “vehicle” as “any wheeled conveyance for carriage of people or goods. ” Applying the rule, there is no doubt that said wheelchair is such a wheeled conveyance. Therefore, Charles is guilty of knowingly bringing a “vehicle” into the Sleaford City Centre. The Golden Rule The golden rule was defined in Grey v.
Pearson (1857) 6 HL Cas 1, as “the ordinary sense of the words to be adhered to, unless it would lead to absurdity, when the ordinary sense may be modified to avoid the absurdity but no further. ” Lord Reid in Luke v. IRC wrote that “it is only where the words are absolutely incapable of a construction that it will accord with the apparent intention of the provision and will avoid a wholly unreasonable result that the words of the enactment must prevail. ” This rule may be used applying the narrow approach and the wide approach.
The narrow approach is used when a word is capable of being interpreted in different meanings. Here, “the judge selects one meaning that best fits the situation” (AS Law, Op. Cit. ). Thus, the court in R. v. Allen (1872) was faced with two distinct meanings for the word “marry” in relation to bigamy. The first, as found by the court, meant legal commitment to another person. The second referred to a ceremony. Both meanings considered, the judges found in favor of the second.
In arriving at such conclusion, the magistrates noted that adopting the first meaning for this particular situation would result to an anomalous situation in that, since the second marriage would be void, committing bigamy in a criminal sense would be impossible. Meanwhile, the wide approach is used where the literal meaning of a word would lead to a ridiculous and repugnant outcome. This approach was used in Re Sigsworth where a son murdered his mother and tried to claim inheritance. The mother left no will, hence, the son as next of kin should, by law, inherit the estate.
However, the court having in mind that “no person shall benefit from a wrong” opted to adopt the wide approach and brushed aside the literal meaning of the law. Therefore, the son was not awarded the estate. Judging by the golden rule, I would decide to acquit Charles. Interpreting the word “vehicle” to include a motorised wheelchair would be absurd and downright unjust. To construe it as such would effectively bar people like Charles from entering City Centres and unduly punish them. This outcome surely does not reflect the wishes of the Parliament : http://www.richinstyle.com/masterclass/smallerblack/interpretation.html