Fisher v Bell [1961] QB 394

Key Point

In statutory interpretation, any statute must be read in light of the general law.


The defendant (shopkeeper) displayed a flick knife with a price tag on it in his Torquay shop window. He was charged with an ‘offer for sale’ of an offensive weapon under s.1 Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959.


Was the display of the knife constitute an offer for sale or an invitation to treat?

Held (Queen’s Bench)

Placing an item on display is not ‘offering it for sale’ – merely an ‘invitation to treat’.

Lord Parker C.J

“In ordinary language it is there inviting people to buy it, and it is for sale; but any statute must of course be looked at in the light of the general law of the country. Parliament in its wisdom in passing an Act must be taken to know the general law.”

“It is perfectly clear that according to the ordinary law of contract the display of an article with a price on it in a shop window is merely an invitation to treat. It is in no sense an offer for sale the acceptance of which constitutes a contract”