Graveyard

Whiteley v Chappell (1868) LR 4 QB 147 was a notorious criminal case in which a defendant who was accused of impersonating a dead man in order to vote was acquitted.

The drafting of the statute – in this case, the Poor Law Amendment Act 1851 (14 & 15 Vict. c. 105.) – made it a criminal offence to impersonate ‘any person entitled to vote’. However, as the court considered that a person who was dead could not be entitled to vote, the defendant was acquitted.

Whitely is considered to be an example of how the literal rule of statutory interpretation can sometimes give rise to an absurdity in the application of the law.

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