Methods of statutory interpretation used to resolve ambiguities in legislation

The following Public Law practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Methods of statutory interpretation used to resolve ambiguities in legislation
  • How ambiguity arises
  • Methods of statutory interpretation
  • Interpretation Act 1978
  • The literal rule
  • The golden rule
  • The mischief rule
  • Intrinsic (or internal) aids
  • Extrinsic (or external) aids
  • Rules of language (or the canons of construction)
  • More...

Methods of statutory interpretation used to resolve ambiguities in legislation

IP COMPLETION DAY: The Brexit transition period ended at 11pm on 31 December 2020. At this time (referred to in UK law as ‘IP completion day’), transitional arrangements ended and significant changes began to take effect across the UK’s legal regime. This document contains guidance on subjects impacted by these changes. Before continuing your research, see Practice Note: What does IP completion day mean for public law?

How ambiguity arises

Ambiguities arise in legislation by way of a number of different factors. Generally speaking, the factor which produces the ambiguity will determine the method by which the ambiguity is best resolved. Ambiguities arise because:

  1. when the legislation was made, the situation creating the ambiguity could not have arisen, this is particularly so in circumstances where new technologies or new cultural initiatives develop

  2. when the legislation was made, the situation creating the ambiguity could have arisen but was not thought of by the legislators

  3. when the legislation was made, the situation creating the ambiguity could have arisen, was thought of by the legislators, but the legislators had no particular policy towards the situation

  4. when the legislation was made, the situation creating the ambiguity could have arisen, was thought of by the legislators who did have a particular policy towards the situation, but the legislative drafters failed to deal

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