What are the Difference between Literal, Golden and Mischief rule

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Before we go into the difference between the rules we will explain what they all mean first.

Literal Approach

Literal Rule is where the judges interpret the legislation that the Parliament has used. “An example of this rule is a Law to Prohibit the Sale of NumChucks, where anyone who sells the items and gives that item to someone else commits an offence”. Such as A Police officer walks pasts a shop and finds one on the window, they take down the details of the shop and subsequently prosecuted for selling the illegal Numchucks.

When it goes to court the Shopkeeper will point out that has not been sold or lent or even given, but there has not been a crime committed under the act, that it has not been intended to prohibit these numchucks from being Freeling displayed for sale and the words in the statute has caught this actual activity. Where then the court interprets literally that the statute has not caught this particular transaction. This approach has been actually used in the case of Fisher v Bell (1961)

Golden Rule

Is where the courts adopt a meaning that reflects the purpose of the legislation. This not an Exclusive purpose of the law and it is not an easy one. The in consistence often arises because of parliament amends the provisions from the act. An example of Golden Rule is in a case called Inland Revenue Commissioner’s v Hinchy ( 1960) as where the tax act stated if the taxpayer submitted inaccurate tax return the taxpayer would be penalised to the extent of” Treble the tax ought to have been paid”, overall the taxpayer said that the policy of this law was to prevent underpayment of tax.

Mischief Rule Approach

It is where a Statute assumes to pass an order to overcome some certain defects in the common law. As where the Courts must identify the defect and were they need to interpret the legislation as having an intended problem to overcome that certain problem. An example of this rule is in the case of Heydan’s Case (1584) 3 Co.Rep 7 a; 76 E.R. 637: Similar case of this approach was given in Smith v Hughes (1960) IW.L.R at 830. It deals with the Street Offences Act, where it states that the common Prostitute to loiter of solicit in a street for the Purpose of Prostitution, where a Street indicated that it was a place and not a person. The overall case was to deal with cleaning up the streets, for people to walk along the streets without being molested or solicited by prostitutes. The prostitute would be penalised and arrested and would be found guilty of the offence, if they were to be soliciting in the streets.

The Difference between the Three Rule Approaches

The difference between the above is the generally the courts are abound to take the literal rule approach to the legislation, but it is possible to do so to depart from this approach, where significant reason why they should, where they can use the Golden Approach and Mischief rile. Overall the difference is that the literal approach is the interpretation of legislation applies the general rule that a court is bound by the words within the statute, but as where the two others are concerned they are the Golden Rule approach comes in when the Judge reluctant to use this approach by using phrases of the interpretation and where the Mischief approach is where the courts use words and phrases are ambiguous or are uncertain for some other reasons, this rule come in where there is uncertainty in a case.


7 thoughts on “What are the Difference between Literal, Golden and Mischief rule

    Fitness exercise said:
    January 3, 2012 at 11:26 am

    I’d have to go along with with you one this subject. Which is not something I usually do! I enjoy reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to speak my mind!


    faya said:
    September 26, 2012 at 2:26 am

    what about the purposive rule


      kivelyoffice2010 responded:
      October 11, 2012 at 8:28 am

      Thank you for the reply on this Topic, I might just have to investigate this as I am not aware of this rule in Australia.


        kivelyoffice2010 responded:
        May 27, 2014 at 5:57 pm

        Unfortunately their is no such thing as purposive rule in Australian law.Our main ones were discuss in the blog 🙂 thank you Arif


      Arif Mahmud said:
      May 24, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      In case of purposive rule the court looks for the purpose behind enacting the rule.The judges give their decision based on the purpose and in this case it doesn’t matter what the literal meaning of the statute is,it is the purpose or intention of the legislature behind passing the statute that all matters.
      case reference:
      Jones v Tower Boot co.(19970


    Stella said:
    November 5, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    The reference is quite available and understandable.thanks.


    Unknown said:
    June 28, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    This is really understand-able thanks a lot


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