In case a statute is clearly of General application or doesn't allow affirmative defences, is it still possible for the Judiciary to interpret the law in a way to accommodate exceptional cases ? or would this be against the principles of public policy and their role ?

For example for crimes against women, children and underclasses the law seems to be interpreted very broadly.

  • This is really asking at too broad of a level of generality. Sometimes a court can, and sometimes it can't, and it deeply depends upon what the law in question is and what the circumstance is.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 22 at 0:35

1 Answer 1


Absolutely not. This would be contrary to the principle of the supremacy of parliament. If it's written in the statute, that's what the law says.

However judges do show some flexibility in interpreting the wording of laws. Furthermore, in the case of crimes, they are also (usually) able to pass a sentence of an "absolute discharge" which means no fine, or prison, or risk of further punishment (but still a criminal record).

Note that it is usually for a crime to have a "without lawful excuse" or similar clause, so the question doesn't arise.

  • 2
    I do recall some judgements along the lines of "This may not be what Parliament intended, but it's what they enacted, so we will follow the law." That should cut both ways. Mar 21 at 14:19

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