Summarise two Bills currently going through Parliament

WHITLEY v CHAPPEL [1868]: a statute aimed at preventing electoral malpractice made it an offence to impersonate any person entitled to vote at an election. The accused was acquitted because he impersonated a dead person and the dead person was not entitled to vote. L&NE RAILWAYS CO v BERRIMAN [1946]: a railway worker was knocked down and killed by a train, and his widow attempted to claim damages. The relevant statute provided that this was available to employees killed while engaging in relaying or repairing tracks.

And since the dead man had been doing routine maintenance and oiling, which the court held did not come within the meaning o relaying and repairing so the widow could not claim damages. FISHER v BELL [1961]: after several violent incidents in which the weapon used was a flick-knife, parliament decided that these knives should be banned. The restriction of offence weapons act 1959 consequently made it an offence to sell or offer for sale any flick knife. The defendant had flick-knives in his shop window and was charged with offering these for sale.

The courts held that the offers for sale must be given its ordinary meaning in law, and that in contract law this was not an offer for sale but only an invitation to people to make a offer to buy. The defendant was therefore not guilty of a crime under the act, despite the fact that this was obviously just the sort of behaviour that the act was set up to prevent.

R v ALLEN [1872]: section 57 of the offence against the person act 1861 stated that whomever being married shall marry any other person during the life of the former husband or wife… shall be guilty of bigamy. It was pointed out that it was impossible for a person already marries to marry someone else – they might go through the marriage ceremony, but would not actually be married. Using the literal rule it would make the statute be interpreted to mean shall go through a marriage ceremony. MADDOX v STORER [1963]: under the road traffic act 1960, it was an offence to drive at more that 30mph in a vehicle adapted to carry more than seven passengers.

The vehicle in the case was a minibus made to carry seven passengers, rather than altered to do so, and the court held that adapted to could be taken to mean suitable for. SMITH v HUGHES [1960]: the street offences act 1958 made it a criminal offence for a prostitute to solicit potential customers in a street or public place. In this case, the prostitute was not actually in the street, but was sitting in a house, on the first floor, and tapping the window to attract the attention of the men walking by.

The judge decided that the aim of the act was to enable people to walk along streets without being solicited, and since the soliciting in questions was aimed at people in the street, even though the prostitute was not in the street herself, the act should be interpreted to include this activity. ELLIOT v GREY [1960]: the road traffic act 1930 provided that it was an offence for an uninsured car to be used on the road. The car in this case was on the road, but jacked up, with its battery removed.

But the court held that as it was nevertheless a hazard of the type, which the statute was designed to prevent, it was covered by the phrase "used on the road". ROYAL COLLEGE OF NURSING v DHSS [1981]: the 1967 abortion act stated that termination of pregnancy was legal only if performed by a registered medical practitioner. By 1972, surgical abortions were largely being replaced by drug induced ones, in which the second stage of the process was carried out by nurses, under the instructions of a doctor.

The House of Lords ruled that the mischief, which the act sought to remedy, was the uncertain state of the previous law, which drove many women to dangerous back-street abortionists. It sought to do this by widening the grounds in which abortions could be obtained, and ensuring that there were carried out with proper skill in hygienic conditions and the procedure in question promoted this aim, and was not unlawful. It was a controversial with Lords Wilberforce and Edmund Davies claiming that the House was not interpreting legislation but rewriting it.