Advantages And Disadvantages Of The Literal Rule

The literal rule is one way in which statues are interpreted. The courts do not subvert the law but just apply the law that is created by parliament. This rule gives all words their ordinary meaning and must be followed even if the result is absurd. In the case R v city of London Court Judge Lord Esher stated if the word of an act is clear then you must follow them even if it manifestly leads to an absurd result . Highlighting the absurdity of the literal rule Berriman a railway worker died hit by a train whilst oiling the tracks. Statute says that compensation payable on death to those relaying or repairing track but nothing about oiling tracks, so the court decided that victims claim could not have compensation as he was not doing anything …show more content…
The courts have a restricted role therefore cannot give their opinion so there is no bias. Thirdly, law making is left to those who elected so is constitutionally sound from our perspective. However, disadvantages include the absurd result not enacting the will of parliament, for example in the case of Berriman (1946) it was not parliaments intention not to allow someone who was killed by a train not to have compensation. The law commission report states that the literal rule assumed ‘an unattainable perfection in draftmanship’, and ‘ignores the limitations of language, Thus, ‘not infrequently’’ even the house of lords have differed over the ‘so-called “plain meaning” of …show more content…
Despite this there is no clear meaning of what an absurd result is, therefore subjective as what may be absurd to one may be different to another. For example, in the R v Allen case, Allen would have thought being found guilty of bigamy was an absurd result. Furthermore, this rule could not be used in cases like Berriman as it was not absurd enough despite being unfair. The golden rule is also unpredictable as how can you follow word of statute if judges can change it to suit the requirements at the time. Lastly, it lacks guidelines as there is no criteria that judges need to follow apart from the fact it avoids an absurd result. What the law commission report had to say about the golden rule is that it sets a ‘purely negative standard, by reference to absurdity, inconsistency, or inconvenience, but provides no clear means to test the existence of these characteristics or to measure their quality or extent’. This means we are looking at the failing of parliament where they would have got the wording

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