Meaning of ‘under’

Siddique v Martin [2016] VSCA 274 

The word ‘under’ is common in statutes.  In this case, the court had power to direct that items seized ‘under a search warrant’ be returned to their owner.  A magistrate had held he could not return things seized by police but not listed on the warrant6

The court (at [19]) quoted a tax case to say that the word ‘admits of degrees of precision and exactness on the one hand, and of looseness and inexactness on the other’7 – it takes its meaning from context8.  Given the provision here was to allow citizens to get their property back, there was no good reason for ‘under’ to be read narrowly9iTip – always go back to the context and purpose of the provision.

This case is from Episode 19 of interpretationNOW!


6 Confirmed on appeal, [2015] VSC 423.

7  Energy Resources [2003] FCA 26 (at [37]).

8  Pearce & Geddes (at [12.11]).

9  cf Griffith University v Tang [2005] HCA 7 (at [89]).