History lessons

Forrest v DPP [2020] NSWCA 162

The bedrock requirement to consider context in the widest sense and up-front includes an obligation to consult the legislative history of provisions.  Forrest was about stating cases on questions of law, an issue on which Leeming JA had ruled in an earlier decision. 

On reading Basten JA’s legislative history in the present case, however, Leeming JA said his earlier reasons ‘cannot survive that analysis’.  This illustrates the critical role that an in-depth investigation of legislative history may play in interpretation.  It also reflects a more general experience that cases reaching appellate courts may ‘rarely involve a choice between clearly right and wrong meanings’15.

This principle is from Episode 64 of interpretation NOW!


15 Pfeiffer [2001] HCA 71 (at [88]), French CJ (2013) 87 ALJ 820 (at 824).