Ejusdem generis

This is one of the rules of language used by judges when determining the correct meaning of words.

There are three rules of language applied by the courts to assist them in interpreting statutes. The rules of language are referred to as intrinsic aids or internal aids. The three rules of language are:

Ejusdem generis ("of the same kind")

 Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius ("the express mention of one thing excludes all others", R v Inhabitants of Sedgely (1831)) 

and Noscitur a sociis, (We know a man by the company he keeps, meaning that the court interprets words from the context in which they are used). Inland Revenue v Frere (1964). 

The ejusdem generis rule – from the Latin, meaning 'of the same kind'. This rule can be applied where general words following specific words set out in a list are found. The question arises as to whether the specific words set out in the list affect in any way the correct interpretation to be placed upon the general words – do they limit the general words in some way? The rule provides that the general words are limited in meaning to the same kinds of things as mentioned in the specific words appearing in the list. For example if a statute applied to tigers, lions, leopards and other animals it could be assumed that a panther would be included as another animal but not a cow. The list must contain at least two specific words before the general word or phrase, for this rule to operate.

 

The rule can be best illustrated by looking at some examples. In Powell v Kempton Park Racecourse (1899) The Betting Act 1853 made it an offence to keep a house, office, room or other place for the purposes of betting. The defendant had been using what was known as 'Tattersall's ring' for the purposes of betting. Tattersall's ring was an outside area and the House of Lords had to decide if the statute applied to an outside area. The court found that the general words 'other place' should be interpreted as inside or an indoor place because the other words in the list were all references to places inside and, as he had been operating outdoors, the defendant was found not guilty.

 

Asylum seekers were in need of council care

 

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