Methods of statutory interpretation used to resolve disputes about the meaning of legislation
Published by a LexisPSL Public Law expert

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

  • Methods of statutory interpretation used to resolve disputes about the meaning of legislation
  • Introduction to statutory interpretation
  • Statutory definitions
  • Interpretation Act 1978
  • Human Rights Act 1998, section 3
  • Withdrawal agreement, relevant separation agreement law, and retained EU law
  • The ‘principle of legality’
  • Other presumptions
  • Rules of language (or canons of construction)
  • Extrinsic (or external) aids
  • More...

Methods of statutory interpretation used to resolve disputes about the meaning of legislation

Introduction to statutory interpretation

The aim of statutory interpretation is to arrive at the legal meaning of legislation, or in other words, the meaning that conveys the legislative intention. The primary indication of legislative intention is the legislative text, read in context and having regard to its purpose. The court should aim to give effect to the purpose of legislation by interpreting its language, so far as possible, in a way which best gives effect to that purpose. In other words, the courts’ basic approach to interpretation is purposive, and every enactment is to be given a purposive construction.

There is a presumption that the grammatical meaning of an enactment is the meaning intended by the legislator. Where an enactment is capable of only one meaning and other interpretative principles or factors do not raise any real doubt as to that meaning, the enactment is to be given its plain meaning. In this case, the plain meaning will align with the legislative purpose.

But where there is doubt about the meaning of legislation (either because it is ambiguous in the sense of being capable or more than one grammatical meaning, or because some interpretative factor points away from the plain meaning), the court weighs the factors that tell for or against each of the opposing

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