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Legal System | Statutory Interpretation

Construction: Mischief Rule

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  • if it is not clear whether an act falls within what is prohibited by the statute

    Heydon's Case (1584)

    • defined the mischief rule
    • stated that court must consider the law was before the statute was passed to understand why it was passed
    • then interpret the statute in such a way to ensure that the gap is covered and remedy the mischief


  • mischief rule has applied in many cases

    Corkery v Carpenter (1951)

    • D rode a bicycle whilst drunk
    • Licensing Act 1872: offence to be drunk in charge of a carriage on highway
    • held mischief intended to be addressed was drunks on the highway being in charge of transport
    • D guilty

    Electoral Commission v Westminster Magistrates' Court [2011]

    • only persons named on the electoral register may make donations to political parties
    • Political Parties, Elections & Referendums Act 2000 S58(2): The court may, on an application made by the Commission, order the forfeiture by the party of an amount equal to the value of the donation.
    • United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) received donations from a person not on the register, although he was entitled to be
    • Court of Appeal: used literal approach & ordered UKIP to repay all the money donated (£349,216)
    • UKIP appealed to Supreme Court
    • Supreme Court held that mischief was to prevent foreign donors from funding UK political parties, so mischief had not occurred
    • to reflect fault (taking money from someone not on register) UKIP ordered to repay only the money received once they knew donor was not on register (£14,481)


Parliamentary supremacy

  • looks at why Parliament passed law so gives effect to intention not merely words

Law Commission Report on Interpretation of Statutes (1969)

  • endorsed this approach as rather more satisfactory than the literal or golden rules suggested it should be the only rule used


Judicial law making

  • judicial infringement of role of legislators

    Royal College of Nursing v DHSS (1981)

    • Lord Edmund-Davies: criticised the redrafting with a vengeance of the Abortion Act 1967

Finding mischief

  • can be difficult to find the mischief
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