Ordinary & trade meaning

The Queen v A L [2016] VSCA 156

How do you interpret everyday words in a statute when they also have a specialised trade or technical meaning?  Normally words take their ordinary meaning – particularly since parliament can define a word if it is meant to have a special meaning1.  However, context, phrasing or subject matter may show that another meaning is intended2.

In this case, a provision described modification of a drug ‘by the addition of’ a chemical.  The Court (at [9-21]) read ‘addition’ normally and rejected a narrower scientific meaning (‘addition reaction’).  Although the section used scientific terms, that didn’t mean every other word had a technical meaning.

This case is from Episode 16 of interpretationNOW!


Australian Leisure [2012] WASC 463 (at [22]); Collector of Customs v Agfa-Gevaert (1996) 186 CLR 389 (at 402).

Marine Power Australia [1989] FCA 210 (at [52]).