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Legal System | Statutory Interpretation

Mischief Rule: Evaluation

Model Answer | A Level

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Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the operation of the golden rule

The golden rule can avoid absurdities as illustrated by Allen. In this case if the literal rule had been used it could have meant because no bigamous marriage is lawful that bigamy is impossible. Therefore, the judge used the golden rule.

The golden rule can help avoid repugnant outcomes. In Re Sigsworth a son had murdered his mother. She had left no will so her estate would be inherited by her next of kin, her son. The golden rule was used to prevent the repugnant situation of the son inheriting.

Use of the rule respects Parliamentary Sovereignty, arguable more than the literal approach, because the exact words are adhered to except in limited situations. The only assumption is that Parliament never intends to pass absurd law which is quite reasonable.

However, the rule allows for judicial law making which can be argued is undemocratic as it gives power to decide to unelected judges. Professor Zander argues the rule .. cannot be regarded as a sound basis for judicial decision-making... and describes it as .. a feeble parachute....

The rule can be criticised as it lacks of definition of the central issue - what is absurd or repugnant? This can make the law uncertain which in turn makes legal advice difficult and increases litigation. This was highlighted by the Law Commission's Report on Interpretation of Statutes (1969) which also said the rule is . a less explicit form of the mischief rule....

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