Explain each of the following rules of Statutory Interpretation;
(i) Noscitur a sociis
(ii) Ejusdem generis
(iii) Mischief rule
Noscitur a sociis
This rule is to the effect that words of doubtful meaning derive the colour and precision from the words phrases with which they are associated.
This rule is applied to interprete things of the same kind, genus and species. The rule was explained in R V. Edmundson as follows, where general words follow particular words in the statute, the general words must be interpreted as being limited to the class or person or things designated by the particular words. This rule is only applicable where the particular words form a class or persons or things. The rule was applied in Evans V. Cross to interprete the provisions of the Road Traffic Act, 1930.
Mischief rule (Rule in Heydons Case (1584)
This is the oldest rule of statutory interpretation. Under this rule, the court examines the statute to ascertain the mischief it was intended to remedy and then interprets the statute so as to advance the remedy.
The rule was explained by Lord Coke in Heydons case (1584). According to the judge, four things must be discerned and considered.
o What was the common law before the making of the Act?
o What was the mischief and defect for which the common law did not provide?
o What remedy has parliament resolved and appointed to cure the disease?
o What is the true reason for the remedy?
The office of the judge shall then give such interpretation as shall suppress the mischief and advance the remedy.
The rule was applied in Smith V. Hughes to interpret the provisions of the street. It was a criminal offence for a prostitute to solicit “in a street or public place.” The accused had
tapped on a balcon rail and “hissed” at men as they passed by below.
Question was whether she had solicited. It was held that since the purpose of the statute was to prohibit solicitation, it was immaterial from where the act took place. The accused
was found guilty.