Title of a statute

TITLE.—The title of a Statute forms no part of the law, and in strictness ought not to be taken into consideration at all. No more argument can be justly built upon the title prefixed in some editions of the Statutes than upon the marginal notes against the several sections—per Tindal, C.J., in delivering to the House of Lords the opinion of the consulted Judges. (Birtwistle v. Vardill, 1839, 7 Cl. and Finn., p. 929.)

The title of a statute is no part of the law—per Lord Mansfield, Rex. v. Williams, 1 W. Bl. 95. Per Lord Hardwicke, Att.-Gen. v. Lord Weymouth, Ambl. 25. Per Pollock, C.B., Salkeld v. Johnson, 2 Exch. 283, Digest of English Case Law, Vol. XIII., p. 1881.

There is no authority for saying that the title of a statute may be used where there is any ambiguity in the statute. (Coomber v. Berks Justices, 9 Q.B.D. 33. Id.)
The title cannot be resorted to for the purpose of construing the provisions of the Act. (Hunter v. Nockolds, 19 L.J. Ch. 177. Id.)

“The title of a statute does not go for much in construing it, but I do not know that it is to be absolutely disregarded. The title of Lord Campbell’s Act, 9 and 10 Vic. c. 93, was certainly referred to as not without significance in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Blake v. Midland Ry. Co., 18 Q.B. 93.” (Per Wills, J., in Kenrick v. Lawrence, 25 Q.B.D. 99. Id.)

If there is in the provisions of an Act anything admitting of a doubt, the title of the Act is a matter proper to be considered in the interpretation of the Act. (Shaw v. Ruddin, 9 Ir. C.L.R. 214. Id.)

The enacting part of an Act is not to be controlled by the title or recitals unless the enacting part is ambiguous, and then the title and recitals may be referred to for the purpose of ascertaining the intention of the legislature. (Bentley v. Rotherham Local Board; 4 Ch. D. 588. Id.)


Commentaries on the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia -Garran, Robert, Sir (1867-1957)