Reasons for statutory interpretation

Ambiguous wording

Legislators generally word statutes broadly, so as to cover many situations. Therefore, words within the statute may be unclear or have multiple meanings, and a court may have to clarify the meaning of those words.

Meanings change over time

The meaning and application of certain words can change over time as society changes. As such, judges need to interpret statutes to clarify the meaning of those words and to give them their current meaning, while keeping in mind the intention of the legislators. For instance, the Family Court clarified, in the ‘Kevin and Jennifer’ case, that the definition of ‘man’ includes a person born female who has undergone sex reassignment surgery.

The Act does not account for future circumstances

Legislators are unable to accurately predict changes and developments in technology, which may alter the applicability of words in a statute. For instance, in Brislan’s case, the High Court had to decide how wireless radios related to the Constitution.

See also:

Statutory Interpretation

Effects of statutory interpretation