Topic: The "always speaking" statute

Presenter: Dr Richard Ekins - Tutorial Fellow in Law, St John's College, Oxford

It is often said that statutes are 'always speaking'. Some judges and scholars take this proposition to mean that courts may update legislation in response to changes after enactment, including changes in the ordinary meaning of words. A recent example is Yemshaw v London Borough of Hounslow [2011] UKSC 3, in which the United Kingdom Supreme Court updated the meaning of the word 'violence' in s 177 of the Housing Act 1996 (UK) to include harmful and abusive conduct at large.

This seminar will consider the doctrinal and jurisprudential grounds of this practice, arguing that at least in its most stark formulation and application, such as in Yemshaw, the practice is unsound and unconstitutional. The meaning of the 'always speaking' statute, the seminar argues, is largely settled by the intention of the enacting legislature, which remains authoritative. 

This seminar is presented by the TC Beirne School of Law, Research Seminar Series and the Centre for Public, International and Comparative Law (CPICL). All welcome, please register by emailing Beth Williams.

Contact: Beth Williams, ph: 334 69350, email:

About Research Seminar Series

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