Statutory interpretation - Penal legislation is construed strictly

The Supreme Court reminded everyone per Lord Reed and Lord Hughes that 'Penal legislation is construed strictly, particularly where the penalty involves deprivation of liberty'.

R (on the application of Gibson) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for justice (Respondent) (2018)  R (on the application of Gibson) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for Justice (Respondent)

 

The Supreme Court reminded everyone per Lord Reed and Lord Hughes that 'Penal legislation is construed strictly, particularly where the penalty involves deprivation of liberty'. Lord Reed and Lord Hughes said that they had 'concluded that this straining of the wording of section 79(2) cannot be justified in circumstances where it would adversely impact on the period of imprisonment to which a person would be subject.'

 

The issue in the appeal was whether interest is included in the starting point under s.79(2) Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 for the giving of proportionate credit for part payment of a confiscation order.

 

The Court of Appeal felt that it was possible to add two additional words 'Where, before or after a period of imprisonment … has been imposed …' to the wording of section 79 (2). The Supreme Court disagreed that this should be done and allowed the appeal. If interest were to be added to the amount considered this would significantly affect any credit to be given for part payment as the interest was considerable.

 

The Supreme Court took the view that had Parliament intended a different basis for calculation when ascertaining a reduction in days of imprisonment then Parliament had the opportunity to do so but it did not. Lord Reed and Lord Hughes pointing out that 'The words of section 79(2) do not provide clearly for a period of imprisonment calculated on the basis for which the Secretary of State contends; on the contrary, they suggest the natural construction that the starting point for the arithmetical calculation of reduction in days of imprisonment is the sum outstanding at the time of the Crown Court order'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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