Consistent usage

R v Jacobs Group [2022] NSWCCA 152

JG pleaded guilty to foreign bribery offences11.  One maximum penalty was potentially three times the ‘benefit’ JG obtained from the offence.  ‘Benefit’ was used elsewhere in the same section to mean gross (not net) benefit.  Did it take the same meaning here?

No, said Bell CJ (at [98-99]).  Although words ‘ordinarily’ have the same meaning throughout an Act, this rule is not absolute12.  On rare occasions context supports ascribing different meanings to cognate terms13.  Here, the penalty’s intended proportionality to JG’s gain or advantage, and the differing contexts of each usage of ‘benefit’ in the section, supported a ‘net benefit’ reading.

This principle is from Episode 88 of interpretation NOW!


11 ss 11.5(1) and 70.2(1)(a)(iv) of the Criminal Code (Cth).

12 Tabcorp [2016] HCA 4 (at [65]), Franzon [1975] HCA 41 (at [11]).

13 Clyne [1981] HCA 40 (at [11]), Episodes 3 & 12.