The Golden rule, or British rule, is a form of statutory interpretation that allows a judge to depart from a word’s normal meaning rule, it gives the words of a statute their plain, ordinary meaning. However, when this may lead to an irrational result that is unlikely to be the legislature’s intention, the judge can depart from this meaning. In the case of homographs, where a word can have more than one meaning, the judge can choose the preferred meaning, if the word only has one meaning, but applying this would lead to a bad decision, the judge can apply a completely different meaning.
This rule is a modification qualification of the literal rule. It states that the literal rule produces an absurdity then the court should lock for another meaning of the words to avoid that absurd result. The golden rule works in two ways:
- If the meaning of the words in the Act is clear, but to adopt the meaning would result in absurdity, therefore, the literal rule is not used. For example, Sigsworth concerned a case where a son had murdered his mother. The mot5her had not made a will and under the Administration of Justice Act 1925, her estate would be inherited by her next of kin, her son. There was no ambiguity in the words of the Act, but the court was not prepared to let the son who had murdered his mother benefits from his crime, it was held that the literal rule should not apply and that the golden rule should be used to prevent the repugnant situation of the son inheriting.
- If the statutory wording is an ambiguity, judges will adopt an interpretation that produces the least abused result on the based that it is not the intention of the parliament to promote absurdity.
Advantages of Golden Rule
Following are the advantages of the golden rule:
- This rule prevents absurd results some cases containing situations that are completely unimagined by the lawmakers; and
- It focuses on imparting justice instead of blindly enforcing the law.
The disadvantage of Golden Rule
Following are the disadvantages of the golden rule:
- The golden rule provides no clear means to test the existence or extent of an absurdity. It seems to depend on the result of each individual case. Whilst the golden rule has the advantage of avoiding absurdities, it, therefore, has the disadvantage that no test exists to determine what is an absurdity.
- This rule tends to let the judiciary overpower the legislature by applying its own standards of what is absurd and what is not.