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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Generalia specialibus non derogant

Generalia specialibus non derogant is the principle that a general statutory provision does not repeal a specific one. The rule may apply either to two separate statutes , or to provisions within the same Act. It was applied by the Supreme Court in the case of Hutch v the Governor of Wheatfield Prison . That case posed the question whether a young person between the ages of fifteen and seventeen years who had been convicted of an indictable offence tried summarily, could be sentenced for the period of detention applicable to an adult (under the Criminal Justice Act, 1951 ), or whether the sentence was limited to three months imprisonment under the terms of the Summary Jurisdiction Over Children (Ireland) Act, 1884 . The Court held that since the 1951 Act was a general Act, and the 1884 Act had a special application, the maxim generalia specialibus non derogant applied. Therefore, the 1884 Act was not impliedly amended or repealed by the 1951 Act, and the possible sentence was limited to three months imprisonment.

The maxim was applied as regards conflicting provisions of the same Act in the High Court in National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health v Fingal County Council In that case , there was an apparent conflict between the general terms of subsection 3 of section 51 of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989 , which stipulated that certain proceedings must be instituted within one year, and subsection 4 of the same section, which stated that proceedings in more limited circumstances should be brought within six months. Murphy J, referring to the Hutch case, found that the more restrictive period in subsection 4 applied.

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