Legislative codes

Pickett v Western Australia [2020] HCA 20

A man was stabbed to death when 8 males attacked him at a railway station.  The act of killing was likely done by a child, who was not responsible due to his age.  Accordingly, the rest argued they could not be charged.  Each of them was convicted of murder.

The issue was how s 7 of the Criminal Code is to be read7.  This section attributed the act of stabbing to the others, not the level of legal responsibility of the child stabber8.  The court (at [22-25]) said the code ‘determines the issue’.  The code replaced the common law, and was read by its natural meaning ‘without any presumption that it was intended to do no more than restate the existing law’9

This principle is from Episode 63 of interpretation NOW!


7 s 7 deems enablers to have taken part in the offence & be chargeable.

8 cf Osland [1998] HCA 75 (at [27]), IL [2017] HCA 27 (at [2, 29, 65]) cited.

9 Stuart (1974) 134 CLR 426 (at 437), Episodes 39 & 51.