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What do we mean when we speak about 'the law'?

The body of general rules which governs and controls the behaviour of people in the country or state in which we live.


What are common law rules?

(Used in the 'interpretation of statutes')

Rules which the courts themselves have developed to assist with interpretation. They include:

1. Literal rules
2.Golden rules
3. Mischief rules
4. Presumptions


Literal rule case example: Whitely v. Chappel (1869)

(words and phrases construed by the courts in their ordinary sense)

- the defendant had voted in the name of a person who had died.

- accused of impersonating 'any person entitled to vote' at an election, which is an offence under electoral law.

- Found not guilty because a dead person is not entitled to vote and has not legal rights.


Mischief rule case example: Smith v. Hughes (1960)

(meaning of the words in the Act in the light of the abuse or 'mischief' which the Act was intended to correct.)

- Street Offences Act 1959 - prostitute cannot solicit men 'in a street or public place'

- women taps on a balcony and hissed at men in order to attract their attention (guilty/not guilty?), women not in the street, men were.

- Found guilty because of the 'mischief' the act was aimed at (preventing the molestation and solicitation of people in the street).



Donoghue v. Stevenson (1932) case.


- Duty of care to not harm our 'neighbour'

- 'Neighbour': any person whom we should reasonably foresee as likely to be affected by our acts or omissions.


Law report case example: Carlill v. Smoke Ball Co. (1893) 1 QB 256.

- 1st volume of the Queen's Bench division
- case begins at page 256
- claimants name is first, defendants second.

- if the case goes to appeal, the parties are known as the appellant and the respondent (order of names unchanged).


Law report case example: Adam v. Ward (1917) AC 309.

- decisions of the House of Lords are published in the Appeal Cases volume

- AC 309 - appeal was heard by House of Lords and can be found in the 1917 volume, the report of the case starting at page 309.


What is a precedent?

a decision in a previous legal case where the facts were similar to the case before the court.