New law is enacted by Parliament in the form known as Acts of Parliament, or Statutes. Statutes may be enacted to clarify or update existing Common Law, or to add new principles to existing Common Law or to create entirely new principles of law. Statute law is supreme and prevails over any conflicting Common Law. When interpreting and applying Statutes it is the duty of the courts to give effect to the intention of Parliament.
Sometimes, a Statute will be precise and technical and the words will afford no room for varying interpretation. Often, however, this is not so, and it is the task of the court to decide what was intended by Parliament. This can give rise to particular problems when a situation presents itself which was not foreseen by the draftsmen when drafting the Statute.
Additionally, there will often be a choice of meanings to the words used in the Statute. The aim of the court is to arrive at a just and sensible solution. This again raises the question of whether the judge is actually ‘making the law’. There are, however, rules of statutory interpretation which are there to guide the courts. Whilst they are not mandatory, the court should consider the rules and keep within their judicial limits. One of the rules which is of particular concern to Legal Principles involves another Latin phrase name ejusdem generis. This allows the presumption that where a series of particular words is followed by general words then the general words may be considered within the scope (or genus) as the particular words. For example in a time charter one may encounter the words “ “Charterers shall pay for all port charges, pilotages, towages, agencies (those are the particular words) and all other usual charges “(the general words). In such a case a charge for dock dues, for example, would clearly be construed as the same genus but a bill for a member of the crew going to the dentist would certainly not.