Adler v George [1964] 2 QB 7

Key Point

  • Under the golden rule of statutory interpretation, where the literal rule of statutory interpretation renders an absurd or inconsistent result, the judge can substitute a reasonable meaning in the light of the statute as a whole.


  • Under s.3 Official Secrets Act 1920, it was an offence to obstruct a HM Forces ‘in the vicinity of a prohibited place’. The defendant had entered an RAF Station, a prohibited place under the Act, rather than ‘in the vicinity’ of it.


  • If the literal rule was applied, the defendant did not infringe the terms of the act as he was ‘in the area’ instead of ‘in the vicinity’ of the prohibited place.

Held (High Court, Queen’s Bench Division)

  • The defendant’s conviction was upheld under the golden rule.
  • The golden rule was applied to extend the meaning of s.3 – ‘in the vicinity’ must be construed as ‘in or in the vicinity of’.

Lord Parker CJ

  • ‘It would be extraordinary, I venture to think it would be absurd, if an indictable offence was thereby created when the obstruction took place out- side the precincts of the station, albeit in the vicinity, and no offence at all was created if the obstruction occurred on the station itself.’