It was not necessary for there to be an ambiguity in a statutory provision for a court to be allowed to look at the surrounding circumstances.
As to the Golden Rule of interpretation: ‘It is to be borne in mind that the office of the judge is not to legislate, but to declare the expressed intention of the legislature even if that expressed intention appeared to the court to be injudicious; and I believe that it is not disputed that what Lord Wensleydale used to call the Golden rule is right viz. that we are to take the whole statute together and construe it all together, giving the words their ordinary significance unless when so applied they produce an inconsistency or an absurdity or inconvenience so great as to convince the court that the intention could not have been to use them in their ordinary signification and to justify the court in putting on them some other significance which though less proper is one which the court thinks the words will bear.’
Lord Blackburn said: ‘I shall . . state, as precisely as I can, what I understand from the decided cases to be the principles on which the courts of law act in construing instruments in writing; and a statute is an instrument in writing. In all cases the object is to see what is the intention expressed by the words used. But, from the imperfection of language, it is impossible to know what that intention is without inquiring farther, and seeing what the circumstances were with reference to which the words were used, and what was the object, appearing from those circumstances, which the person using them had in view; for the meaning of words varies according to the circumstances with respect to which they were used.’ and
‘But it is to be borne in mind that the office of Judges is not to legislate, but to declare the expressed intention of the Legislature, even if that intention appears to the Court injudicious; and I believe that it is not disputed that what Lord Wensleydale used to call the golden rule is right, viz., that we are to take the whole statute together, and construe it all together, giving the words their ordinary signification, unless when so applied they produce an inconsistency, or an absurdity or inconvenience so great as to convince the Court that the intention could not have been to use them in their ordinary signification, and to justify the Court in putting on them some other signification which, though less proper, is one which the Court thinks the words will bear.’
(1877) 2 App Cas 743
England and Wales
Cited – Westminster City Council v National Asylum Support Service HL 17-Oct-2002
The applicant sought assistance from the local authority. He suffered from spinal myeloma, was destitute and an asylum seeker.
Held: Although the Act had withdrawn the obligation to provide assistance for many asylum seekers, those who were . .
Cited – Regina v Z (Attorney General for Northern Ireland’s Reference) HL 19-May-2005
The defendants appealed their convictions for being members of proscribed organisations. They were members of the ‘Real IRA’, but only the IRA was actually proscribed.
Held: The appeals failed. In construing an Act of Parliament it may be of . .
Cited – Chartbrook Ltd v Persimmon Homes Ltd and Others HL 1-Jul-2009
Mutual Knowledge admissible to construe contract
The parties had entered into a development contract in respect of a site in Wandsworth, under which balancing compensation was to be paid. They disagreed as to its calculation. Persimmon sought rectification to reflect the negotiations.
Held: . .
Cited – Power v Provincial Insurance CA 18-Feb-1997
The insured had failed to disclose an earlier drink driving conviction on applying for insurance over five years later. The insurers refused cover on an accident. The plaintiff said that the conviction was spent under the 1974 Act. The endorsement . .
Cited – Yarl’s Wood Immigration Ltd and Others v Bedfordshire Police Authority CA 23-Oct-2009
The claimant sought to recover the costs of damage to their centre following a riot, saying that under the 1886 Act, they were liable. It appealed against a ruling that they were unable to claim as a public authority, saying that the 1886 Act was . .
Examined – Great Western Railway Co v Mostyn (Owners) HL 1928
The House considered the application of a case precedent where they had been uunable to extract a binding ratio decidendi.
Held: A ratio decidendi cannot be created by aggregating views of minority judges and views of majority judges to secure . .
These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 15 July 2021; Ref: scu.187446