Law Futures Activity Statutory Interpretation

A statute is another name for an Act of Parliament. These are written laws that are passed through both Houses of Parliament. Once a statute have been passed, it is up to judges to decide how to interpret them. This can be a lot trickier than you might think!

For example, if you saw a rule which said it was “illegal to use a vehicle in a public park”, what does this mean? Clearly, things like cars and trucks and motorbikes might be considered vehicles. But what about bicycles, are they vehicles? What about skateboards? Roller blades? Scooters? It is up to judges to decide how the rules written by parliament should be interpreted. This is what we call statutory interpretation.

For more information on what is statutory interpretation, and to find out if Jaffa Cakes are actually cakes, watch this video:

The following two activities should help you better understand the rules of statutory interpretation (Activity 1) and let you have a go at being the judge and applying the rules yourself (Activity 2).

Once completed, you can email your work to and I will look through it and give you some feedback.

Use the information in this video to complete the table.

Interpret and apply the Act to the following situations to decide whether each person is guilty of an offence or not. Make sure you explain your decisions in each scenario.

Tip: Think about which rules of interpretation you are using and how different rules might produce different outcomes.

  1. Mr and Mrs A live in an up-market area where the houses only have names. Their house is called ‘The Larches’ and has no number.
  2. Miss B has a brand new all-glass door. Her number is screwed to the garden gate.
  3. Mr C lives in a flat over a chemist shop but has his own door at the back of the shop, which has no number.
  4. Mrs D lives with her daughter in a cottage. They have a large plaque that they ordered from the garden centre. It has a beehive in the centre, the words ‘Honey Cottage’ written across the top and the words ‘TWENTY SEVEN’ written along the bottom. It is screwed to the wall next to the door.
  5. Miss E is very artistic and has painted her door dark green. Above the knocker she has painted a white oval upon which the number of the house is painted in dark green.
  6. The purpose of the Act was first discussed in a Government White Paper and caused a long debate at the second reading of the bill in the House of Commons. When interpreting the law, can a judge look at these two things?-

Bonus Extension:

Re-draft The House Number Act (2001). Try to remove any ambiguities.