Sometimes even the most obvious things have to be spelt out. Legislation commonly adopts the format – ‘Any person who – (a) lives in Sydney, or (b) has red hair, must register’. The appeal court in this case (at ) pointed out (continuing our simplified example) that someone who lives in Sydney, but who does not have red hair, must still register12.
The argument was that the obligation to register only bound the ‘closest referent’ – anyone with red hair. Pearce & Geddes describe the basic principle as ‘concluding words qualifying all paragraphs’13. This is no more than a common-sense grammatical reading of the provision >>> interpretation 101.
This case is from Episode 37 of interpretationNOW!
12 Pearce & Geddes (at [12.3]), R v Scarlett (1972) 20 FLR 349 (at 351) cited.
13 cf Scalia & Garner Reading Law (at 156), discussing Jama 543 US 335 (2005).