Applying Laws Across Time: Disentangling the ‘Always Speaking’ Principles – Oxford Journal of Legal Studies

Posted May 17th, 2024 in judges, judiciary, legislative drafting, news, statutory interpretation by sally

‘Common-law judges frequently claim to apply the “always speaking” principle. But they recognise that they are not clear on what it means, with Lord Leggatt recently calling the metaphor “enigmatic”. In this article, I seek to clarify this by showing that the “always speaking” metaphor is associated with at least four different types of principle, each of which responds to a distinct issue (although there is a common theme: change over time). I explore the origins of the “always speaking” metaphor, distinguish the four issues and explain how they relate. I argue that it is important to disentangle the four types of “always speaking” principle, with a focus on distinguishing principles of dynamic (versus originalist) interpretation from principles that empower judges to strain or “recast” legislation to deal with new developments sensibly. In doing so, I analyse and critique the judgments in the recent UK Supreme Court case of News Corp.’

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Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 10th May 2024