Adler v George [1964]

Adler v George [1964] 2 QB 7 is an English public law case that exemplifies the application of the golden rule of statutory interpretation. The golden rule allows judges to depart from the literal meaning of words in a statute when adhering to it would lead to absurd or inconsistent results.

The case involved the interpretation of Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act 1920. According to the Act, it was an offence to obstruct Her Majesty's Forces in the vicinity of a prohibited place. The defendant entered an RAF Station, a prohibited place under the Act, but argued that he was not in the vicinity of the station, as required by the literal reading of the statute. The key issue was whether the defendant, by entering the RAF Station, violated the terms of the Act, given the literal interpretation of "in the vicinity".

In the High Court, the defendant's conviction was upheld under the golden rule of statutory interpretation. The court applied the golden rule to avoid an absurd outcome and extended the meaning of "in the vicinity" to include "in or in the vicinity of".

Lord Parker CJ emphasised the potential absurdity in strictly adhering to the literal rule. He stated that it would be extraordinary and absurd if an indictable offence was created when obstruction occurred just outside the precincts of the station but in the vicinity. On the other hand, no offence would be created if the obstruction occurred directly on the station itself. The judge's use of the golden rule allowed for a more reasonable interpretation that aligned with the broader purpose of the statute.

This case illustrates the flexibility of the golden rule in statutory interpretation. When faced with an absurd or inconsistent result from the literal interpretation of statutory language, judges can use the golden rule to adopt a more reasonable meaning that aligns with the overall purpose of the statute. In this case, the golden rule was applied to prevent a gap in the law that would render certain actions outside the station unpunishable despite their potential threat.
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