General & specific words

Van Heerden v Hawkins [2016] WASCA 42

If a provision mentions several specific things of the same type, and ‘other’ things generally, those ‘other’ things may also need to be of that type4.  However, the specific things must have something in common – you must be able to identify a ‘genus’5iTip – don’t apply this reasoning mechanically – it’s just part of interpreting words in their statutory context6.

In this case, an Act prohibited the sale of ‘any food, toy or other product’ designed to resemble a tobacco product.  The Court said (at [114])  that ‘other product’ should not be limited because food and toys ‘do not have a common or dominant characteristic’ (no genus).  Food and toys were simply examples of prohibited products.

This case is from Episode 18 of interpretationNOW!


ejusdem generis’ – Pearce & Geddes (at [4.25-4.31]).

5  DFCT v Clark [2003] NSWCA 91 (at [126]).

6  Cody v J H Nelson (1947) 74 CLR 629 (at 649).