Consultation Paper on Statutory Drafting and Interpretation: Plain Language and the Law

By Órla Gillen, Thursday, 5th August 1999 | 0 comments
Filed under: 1999.



Law Reform Commission issues Consultation Paper on Statutory Drafting and Interpretation: Plain Language and the Law

Today, the Law Reform Commission published a Consultation Paper on Statutory Drafting and Interpretation: Plain Language and the Law.  The Consultation Paper is  the first stage in the Commission's examination of the language and style in which legislation  is drafted, and the interpretation of legislation by the courts. A Final Report on the subject will be published following consultation with interested  parties.

In the Consultation Paper, the Commission makes a number of provisional recommendations, which aim to improve the accessibility of legislation and make it easier to understand. The recommendations  are based on the principle that, under the Rule of Law, legislation should be intelligible to the people it  governs.

The Consultation Paper highlights the link between the drafting of legislation, and its interpretation in the courts. It points out that the highly detailed, complex and sometimes antiquated drafting style to be found in Irish legislation is in part attributable to the strictly literal approach to statutory interpretation which is often taken by the Irish courts. The paper advocates a clearer and less complex style of legislative drafting, together with a more flexible approach to statutory interpretation.

Central Recommendations

Amongst the provisional recommendations made in the Consultation Paper are the following:

~ The Consultation Paper recommends that, in interpreting statutes, courts should be permitted to consider the object and purpose of the statute.

~ It recommends that, in determining the meaning of a statutory provision, courts should also be permitted to examine, as aids to interpretation, a range of materials including the relevant parliamentary debates, early drafts of the Act as a Bill, and preparatory reports.

~ It recommends that standard drafting practices should be adopted, to facilitate clarity and effective communication.

~ Shorter sentences, familiar vocabulary and clearer grammatical structures should be used.  Technical or specialist jargon should be avoided as much as possible.

~ The format of legislation should be modernised, and there should be a greater use of headings to facilitate readability.

~ Each Act should begin with a purpose statement, which would set out clearly the aim and purpose of the Act.

~ The Commission also recommends that priority should be given to the consolidation of statutes.

Consultation Process

The Law Reform Commission will welcome written submissions on its provisional recommendations from interested members of the public, to reach the Commission before 15th October 1999.