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Partridge v Crittenden [1968] 2 All ER 421

FORMATION OF CONTRACT – STATUTORY INTERPRETATION

Facts

The defendant advertised for sale a number of Bramblefinch cocks and hens, stating that the price was to be 25 shillings for each. Under the Protection of Birds Act 1954, it was unlawful to offer for sale any wild live bird. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) brought a prosecution against the defendant under the Act. At his trial, the defendant was found guilty of the offence by the magistrates; he appealed this conviction.

Issue

The issue on appeal was whether the advertisement was properly construed as an offer of sale (in which case the defendant was guilty) or an invitation to treat (in which case he had committed no offence). A further issue was whether it was appropriate to adopt a different interpretation of the phrase ‘offer for sale’ in the context of criminal law than was accepted in the context of contract law.

Held

The court held that the advertisement was not an offer but an invitation to treat, and as such the defendant was not guilty.

The court also rejected the suggestion that the court should adopt a stricter interpretation of the phrase ‘offer for sale’ in the criminal context compared to the contractual context, reasoning that to do so would usurp the legislative function. The legislature had chosen the phrase ‘offer for sale’ based on its existing understanding, and to alter this understanding under the pretext of ‘interpretation’ was not the proper role of the court.

Words: 251


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