bits of law

Main Section

Legal System | Statutory Interpretation

Literal Rule: Introduction

Model Answer | A Level

Download Adobe PDF Icon

Describe what is meant by the literal rule

The literal rule requires the judges to give the word or phrase its natural, ordinary and dictionary meaning (Pinner v Everett). Even if this reading creates an unjust outcome, as Lord Esher noted, in Judge of the City of London Court, ..if the words of an Act are clear then you must follow them even though they may lead to a manifest absurdity... .

It is illegal to impersonate any person entitled to vote. In Whitley v Chappell, the defendant impersonated a dead person. It was held a dead person is not entitled to vote and so the defendant was acquitted.

In London and North Eastern Railway Company v Berriman, the widow of a railway worker tried to obtain compensation after her husband was killed by a train. He had been maintaining the track not relaying or repairing tracks so it was held she was not entitled to compensation.

It is an offence to offer for sale flick knives. In Fisher v Bell, a shopkeeper displayed a weapon of this type in his window, under the law of contract this is not technically an offer for sale and so the defendant was found not guilty.

This site is best viewed with style sheets (CSS) enabled and an up-to-date browser.