Purposive approach

Under this rule judges are attempting to identify what they believe parliament meant to achieve.

The purposive approach is probably the broadest approach of all the rules of interpretation.  It is certainly more flexible than either the literal rule or the golden rule which tend to concentrate upon the meaning of individual words or phrases.

The purposive approach is often compared to the mischief rule. Under the mischief rule the court is looking to see what gap there was in the old law and how Parliament has filled the gap and what remedy has been provided for.  The purposive approach, on the other hand, is broader still in that it is not just looking to see what gap might have existed in the law previously, but the judges are attempting to identify what they believe Parliament meant to achieve.  In other words what is the purpose of the Act?

As a natural consequence of this approach the judges find themselves concerned with matters which are outside the confines of the particular statute itself.  This includes the context in which the law was created.  The judges therefore consider it quite appropriate and proper to examine the concerns of the government and Parliament at the time the Act was passed.


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