Beneficial purpose

Patten v Mareangareu [2021] VSCA 295

A police officer was convicted of offences and dismissed.  The convictions were later quashed and he sought reappointment13.  The trial judge said the power to reappoint ‘should be construed beneficially for the police officer’ and ordered reappointment.

The appeal court, however, held (at [57]) that to identify a beneficial purpose up-front ‘may invert the correct approach’.  It ‘may obscure the essential question regarding the meaning of the words used’14, and ‘may therefore not only distract attention from the text, but offer little guidance to its meaning’.  This case reminds us that framing legislative purpose at a high level of generality can derail the process15.

This principle is from Episode 79 of interpretation NOW!


13 s 136(3) of the Victoria Police Act 2013 (VIC).

14 NSWALC [2016] HCA 50 (at [33]) quoted, cf Episode 67.

15 cf Carr [2007] HCA 47 (at [5-7]), Episode 43 case 4 (compromise).