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English Legal System

English Legal System (4th edn)

Steve Wilson, Helen Rutherford, Tony Storey, Natalie Wortley, and Birju Kotecha
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date: 27 January 2023

p. 1154. The interpretation of statuteslocked

p. 1154. The interpretation of statuteslocked

  • Steve Wilson, Steve WilsonFormer Principal Lecturer, Northumbria University, Newcastle
  • Helen Rutherford, Helen RutherfordSenior Lecturer, Northumbria University, Newcastle
  • Tony Storey, Tony StoreySenior Lecturer, Northumbria University, Newcastle
  • Natalie WortleyNatalie WortleyAssociate Professor, Northumbria University, Newcastle
  •  and Birju KotechaBirju KotechaSenior Lecturer, Northumbria University, Newcastle


This chapter explains the significance of statutory interpretation and how problems of interpretation arise. The chapter considers in detail the courts’ approach to interpretation, and traditional rules such as the literal rule, the golden rule, and the mischief rule are all analysed with examples from the case law. In modern times the courts employ a more purposive approach to interpretation, and there is coverage of how this approach works in practice. In particular, the chapter outlines a range of intrinsic and extrinsic aids to interpretation that the courts can rely on in interpreting an Act of Parliament. Among others, these aids include the long title, cross-headings, marginal or side notes, dictionaries, pre-parliamentary materials, statutes on the same subject matter, and, most notably, Hansard. The chapter concludes with an overview of the rules of language, namely ejusdem generis, noscitur a sociis, and expressio unius est exclusio alterius.

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