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Introduction to Statutory Interpretation

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Law
Wordcount: 3570 words Published: 10th Mar 2017

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Statutory Interpretation


The means of interpreting the Acts of Parliament by judges is called statutory interpretation.

Common Law: Is a law formulated by judges with the aid of conclusions of a court to follow the aid of a legislative process by the executive branch. The legal system of a common law states that, it is a partiality to handle likewise facts or matters distinctively on a distinctive occasions.

Literal Rule: Is a rule that is frequently utilized by orthodox Judges. Hence, the Literal Rule is an obligational project given to the court to give a literal meaning to a statutes irrespective of the outcome of being sensitive or not.

Golden Rule: Also known as the British rule is applied when a literal rule develop a solution that is different from the parliament intension. It is used when literal rule turns out to absurdity.

Mischief Rule: Is the process of discovering the meaning of what parliament meant by a certain statutes

Table of Contents.

  1. Introduction of statutory interpretation………………………………. P.4

    1. Extrinsic aids to statutory interpretations………………………… P.4
    2. Interpretation acts…………………………………………………… P. 5
    3. Common law……………………………………………………… P.5
  2. The three basic rules in statutory interpretations………………………P. 6

    1. Literal rule………………………………………………………… P. 6
    2. Advantages of literal rule…………………………………………. P.6
    3. Disadvantages of literal rule………………………………………. P. 6
    4. Malaysian cases using the literal rule…………………………………. P.7
    5. English cases using the literal rule…………………………… p. 8
  3. The golden rule………………………………………….. p. 9

    1. Advantages of the golden rule……………………. P. 9
    2. Disadvantages of the golden rule…………………. P.9
    3. Malaysian cases using the golden rule…………….. p. 9
    4. English cases using the golden rule………………………….. p 10
  4. The mischief rule………………………………………….. p 12

    1. Advantages of the mischief rule……………………… p 12
    2. Disadvantages of the mischief rule ………………….. p. 12
    3. Malaysian cases using the mischief rule…………………………. P 13
    4. English cases using the mischief rule…………………………….. p 14
  5. Conclusions …………………………………………………..……… p 15
  6. References …………………………………………………………… p 16
  7. Appendices…………………………………………………………… p. 17
  1. Introduction of Statutory Interpretation.

A Statutory Interpretation is best described as the capability of a court or Judges to translate the Acts of Parliament. It is a means of giving an explanation to the meaning of a piece of legislation. In other words, the means of utilizing statutory laws where by Judges tried to discover the purpose of parliament putting laws in action is also known as Statutory Interpretation.

A statute might be clearly revealed in terms of meaning but they are mostly made up of ambiguities and vague words which are expected to be settled by the judges. According to Lord Hailsham, a senior English Judge, “probably 9 out of 10 cases heard by the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords turn upon or involve the meaning of words contained in statute or secondarylegislation”. This means that many cases go to appeal at a point of interpretation.

Also, cases go to appeal at a point of interpretation because, laws are NOT “drafted in general terms”. Laws are supposed to be drafted in general terms and should be conducted with both present and future situations.

  1. Extrinsic Aids to Statutory Interpretation

Extrinsic aids are useful information data’s which are not part of a statutes but are helpful to Judges in other to create more understanding on the statute. They are materials which make a statute more visible for interpretation.

Parliamentary debates are on one of the types of extrinsic material used. There is a government team with two people. The first one would be the political party introducing the Act of parliament and the second would be the opposition’s team also with two members. It is the government’s job uphold or supports the topic of the debates or also called the motion. The government team will discuss a problem and has a specific proposal for a change concerning that problems for seven minutes. It is a difficult task for opposition teams to play ‘devil’s advocate’ so to speak the opposition the team tries to find imperfection in the government’s arguments for eight minutes. Then the government team responds to the oppositions arguments trying to make firm their own position for eight minutes. The opposition teams moves in the same manner for eight minutes. The opposition reach a conclusion with a rebuttal speech. Conclusively, the government will then with their own rebuttal speech.

Furthermore, Notes of the legislation: Both the parliament and legislative Assemblies have the power to enact laws according to their respective centers. A law that is established or introduced by a state Assembly will only affect the state. A law which is enacted by the parliament can be extended to the whole nation.

Also, an organization which aim on the systematic development, review, and reform laws acted in a specific jurisdiction is known as a Law Reform Commission.

Conclusively, a document which is printed or issued at a time with a bill is known as an explanatory memorandum. The main objective of that document is to give meaning to the aims and operations of the statutes in the statutory interpretation.

  1. Interpretation Act:

Interpretation Act state that, in any Act, without the purpose appearing to be opposite, expressions selected to be in Schedule 1 of an Act most be interpreted in accordance with that Schedule.

  1. Common Law:

Common Law or Case Law is a law originated or formulated by judges with the aid of conclusions of a court and likewise tribunals, as fought to a statutes which follow the aid of a legislative process published by the executive branch. Common law help to draw matters into conclusion where two or more groups disagree with a certain law by looking forward into past case laws that are applicable.

  1. The Three Basic Rules in Statutory Interpretation.

The three basic rules enforced for statutory interpretation by judges in England, are:

  • The literal rule
  • The Golden rule and
  • The Mischief rule.
  1. The Literal Rule:

The literal rule is made up of both the ordinary and the plain meaning rules. A literal rule is a rule that is frequently utilized by orthodox Judges. Orthodox Judges are the Judges whom think or believe that their constitutional role is limited to apply a law enacted by the parliament. Hence, the Literal Rule is an obligational project given to the court to give a literal meaning to a statutes irrespective of the outcome of being sensitive or not.

  1. Advantages of Literal Rule.
  • The characteristics of the literal rule is that law must be equally certain and knowable.
  • The rule demands that citizens are to be notified earlier about the legal effects behind a statutes.
  • The selected Parliament should be the one to enact a new law as well as to secure the will of the elected legislators.
  1. Disadvantages of Literal Rule.
  • During language interpretation, statutes which were having clear meaning can have more than one meaning.
  • Words or phrases in a statutes are reasonably open to different meaning. Example, 12:00 might either be AM or PM.
  • No matter how absurd the component of a statutes or an Act may be, one must comply with it.
  1. Malaysia case using Literal Rule:





Sale and purchase agreement of a dwelling apartment. Conditions of agreement: Connections of Electricity and water supply to the apartment. Delivery of vacant possession of house to the purchaser.

In this case there was a dispute with regards to clause 20 of the sale and purchase agreements dated 1st August 1919

Clause 20 of the standard sale and purchase agreement reads as follows;

20(1). This building should be completed by the vendor along with connections of water and electricity supply together with the vacant possessions, all must be handed over to the purchaser within two years interval regard the date of this written agreement.

Furthermore, if the vendor happens not to comply with this agreement as said, with the necessary requirements. He must pay immediately to the purchaser liquidated damages day after day with an interest rate of 10% annually of the purchased amount.


Dato’ Hj. Abdul Malik b. Hj. Ishak J:

An urgent request which opposed the opinion of the learned Magistrate Court, Taiping Perak where by the appellant were commanded to pay RM1, 431.51 together with 8% annual interest from May 26, 1993 until a contentment period of the respondent.

  1. English (UK) case using Literal Rule:



Hearing date: 10, Nov 1960.


A man that own a shop displayed a knife by the window of his shop with a price ticket behind it. He was charged for sale of a flick knife, which is contrary to s. 1(1).

Held: According to the meaning of s.1(1) of the Act 1959, the shopkeeper was not guilty of what he was charged. This is because demonstrating a flick knife at the shop is an invitation to treat and not for sale.


A chief inspector of police charged against a respondent that he unlawfully offer for sale a knife which is, contrary to s.1 of the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act, 1959.

Lord Parker C.J. anyone, who; manufacture, sell, hire, lends or give to another person a knife that has blade which automatically opens by the pressure applied to a button or springs shall be guilty.

  1. The Golden Rule:

The golden rule which is also known as the British rule is applied when a literal rule develop a solution that is different from the parliament intension or that avoid the parliament intension instead. The golden rule is exceptional to the literal rule because it is used when literal rule turns out to absurdity in other to alter the grammatical and ordinary senses.

  1. Advantages of the Golden Rule.
  • Golden rule honors parliament decision.
  • It always permit Judges to select the most accurate meaning among many in a statutes.
  • It supply sensible conclusions on cases which the literal rule cannot handle.
  1. Disadvantages of the Golden Rule.
  • The rule has no guidelines that governs it.
  • It is not widely known, hence it used on rare cases/occasion
  • A Judge might found a statute in absurdity but it might not be for another Judge.
  1. Malaysia case using Golden Rule:

Re An Advocate [1964] MLJ 1


The accused is a recommended advocate in the state of Sarawak who happened to go to Kuching for his normal activities. He took along with himself female clothes in which he did make his advertisement. He used his own name and also his hotel room to help upgrade the company business. He could be struck out from the role of advocates if his conduct fell within the section 12(g) of the Advocate Ordinance or suspended. This is so because; the section 12(g) of Advocate Ordinance of Sarawak says anyone who by any means suspended or ruled out from practicing the advocate role by any judge in respect of the law binding the section 12(g) of the Advocate Ordinance.

  1. English (UK) case using the Golden Rule:


Karen Elissa Pearson Gray, Appellant v. Doyle Gene Pearson, Appellee.

Karen Gray appeals a judgment on her former husband’s petition to modify child support and her counter for contempt.


Benji and Michael Pearson were born into the family of Doyle Pearson by Karen Pearson during their marital union. Benji and Michael were twelve (12) and six (6) years of age respectively when the both parents divorced. The court dictated that Doyle should pay a child supports for his children and prescribed him to pay Benji college fees as well. He was ordered to pay $800 per month for the child supports.

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When Benji turned 21 during his college education, Doyle stopped to pay his college fees because he assumed Benji is no longer a child. He only continues with the child support fees and shortly three months after his 21st birthday, Doyle reduced the child support amount to $400 as advised by his attorney. In addition, he paid NO child support from February 2000 to June 2000.

Karen then, counter-petitioned to alleged Doyle that he lack respect for his failure to pay child support in respect of his modification petition. Furthermore, Doyle fails to pay Benji’s college fees and also fails to abide with the terms of the divorce agreement.

According to the Chancellor, after trial, Doyle was not caused by law to pay $800 for the child support continuously forever. Hence the amount of the child support was cut down from $800 to $600 to be effective from the date of Benji’s 21st birthday. The chancellor also said, Doyle was contempt to have reduced the child support amount from $800 – $400.

  1. The Mischief Rule

The process of discovering the meaning of what parliament meant by a certain statutes is known as Mischief Rule. In other words, it is a nature or a related method of translating a statutes in order to discover the wrongs, mischief to which the stature endeavored to amend. In addition, it demands the adoption of interpretation that is made to correct the weakness or defect of an Acts passed in law.

Steps to Interpret a Statute in Mischief Rule:

  • Consider what the law was before the Act was passed
  • Identify what was wrong with that law
  • Decide how Parliament intended to improve the law through the statute in question
  • Apply that finding to the case before the court
  1. Advantages of the Mischief Rule.
  • Mischief encourage flexibility in the law
  • It prevent absurdity and unfair outcome.
  • It brought development to the society.
  1. Disadvantages of the Mischief Rule.
  • It only allow Judges to re-write statutes that is supported by the parliament.
  • It cannot be remedied else, the mischief if detected.
  • It never preserve Parliament supremacy.
  1. Malaysia case using Mischief Rule:

Lim Moh Joo v. P.P [1970] 2 MLJ 113 Criminal Appeal

Decide – date- 1

16th May, 1970… Wan Suleiman J.

Catch Words:

Criminal Law and ProcedureMedical report of alleged assault. Medical reports were presented before the court without prove and on the absent of the laboratory specialist who conducted the test. In addition, the defendant were to be given a copy of the medical report for not less than 10 days before the trial day in respect to the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap6), ss 380 and 399.


The complainant produced two medical evidence against the appellant without prove and without the consultant who conducted the medical report. The appellant do not have a copy of the medical certificate that he was accused of till the day of the trail.


According the law binding the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap. 6), a public prosecutor must deliver a copy of evidence or legal report to the accused not less than 10 clear days before the trial day. As long as such provision were not made, the reports or evidence are made not to be admitted. Hence the order binding the accused must be squashed.

  1. English (UK) case using Mischief Rule:


Legal Citation

Smith v Hughes, (1871) LR 6 QB 597 (Queen’s Bench Division)


A complainant where to sell oats/food grains to a suspect with samples to show a try out. The suspect then examine the sample and rewrite to the complainant by accepting the oats at a cost of 34s per quarter. Thereafter, the suspect rejected the oats on reaching him with reason being that he were expecting old oats but the once he received were new. The suspect also complained about the cost price which is too high after reaching agreement with the complainant because he discovered that they were new oats, hence there came a fight in respect of their agreement because there is a bridge of contract.


Order from the Queen’s Bench Division specified that both parties have communicated the nature of the oats before making transactions. In addition, they have agreed to the terms and conditions that governs the sales and purchase of the oats. The suspect thought they were old but the complainant knew they were new. Hence, the fault is from the suspect because of his inability to know the age of the oats he purchased.

  1. Conclusion:

Conclusively, the term statutory interpretation is a method which judges use to translate the Acts of Parliament. In other words, the means in which judges utilize statutory laws is also known as statutory interpretation. A statute might be straightforward in terms of meaning but they are mostly made up vague words which are expected to be interpreted by the judges. Additionally, many cases go to appeal at the point of interpretation. There are three basic rules generally enforced for statutory interpretations such as; Literal, Golden and Mischief Rules.

  1. Reference:

Translegal.com, (2014). The rules of statutory interpretation (2).

Home.loxfordlaw.co.uk, (2014). Notes on Statutory Interpretations – A-Level Law Revision & Exam Help by D.Hussain Publications.

Scribd.com, (2014). LIM MOH JOO.


Casebrief.me, (2014). Smith v Hughes | Case Brief Summary.

Sixthformlaw.info, (2014). Fisher v Bell.

Golden-rule-law.blogspot.com, (2014). The Golden Rule: Advantages And Disadvantages Of The Golden Rule.

  1. Appendices

Statutory interpretation > 2,4,15

Extrinsic > 4, 5

Interpretation Acts > 5

Common law > 2, 5

Literal rule > 2, 6, 15

Advantages and Disadvantages of literal rule > 6

Malaysia cases using the literal rule > 7, 8

English cases using the literal rule > 8

Golden rule > 2, 9, 15

Advantages and Disadvantages of golden rule > 9

Malaysia cases using the golden rule > 9, 10

English cases using the golden rule > 10, 11

Mischief rule > 2, 12, 15

Advantages and Disadvantages of golden rule > 12

Malaysia cases using the mischief rule > 13

English cases using the mischief rule > 13, 14


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