What Are The Differences Between Every-Day And Legal Commands?
The difference between a simple command or direction, that is effective for every-day use and a statutory provision upon which legal action may be grounded can be further illustrated by the following example.
Imagine that you board a public bus and see the following notice facing you:
NO STANDING ON THE BUS PENALTY N500.00
ery probably you would understand at once what is required. Yet a prohibition in this form is not suitable for legal purposes. In fact, it is a simplified summary of the statutory provisions. It is those provisions that would be relied upon if any legal proceedings were brought for non-compliance.
Complete TMA Question 2.
On reading the prohibition, you are very likely to conclude that it is directed to you as you board that particular bus as a passenger. You may also conclude that you cannot be carried by that bus if there are no empty seats and that, if there is an empty seat, you must take it and remain there while the bus is in motion. These conclusions result from:
- a commonsense reading of the notice;
- the setting in which the notice is posted and is intended to be read;
- your knowledge and experience of riding on buses.
The law cannot take so much as understood. In the criminal law, in particular, there is a strong principle that individuals should be given the benefit of any ambiguous legal provision. As Lord Esher stated in Tuck & Sons v. Priester (1887) 19 QBD 629, at 638:
If there is a reasonable interpretation which will avoid the penalty in any particular case, we must adopt that construction. If there are two reasonable constructions, we must give the most lenient one
The Nigerian Courts also adopt this view. See the case of The State V. Disu Bakare (1985) HCNLR p.466 at 470