This case (at ) re-confirms that the old rule about penal provisions being read strictly against liability really is one of ‘last resort’. Even 40 years ago, the High Court said the rule had already ‘lost much of its importance’ and that the ordinary rules ‘must be applied’7. Of course, penal consequences are part of the context, but a ‘very minor consideration to be taken into account’ when ascertaining meaning8.
In theory at least, the old rule may have some role where ordinary principles of interpretation have ‘run out’ and ‘all other indicia’ fail to provide guidance9. iTip – in practice, however, it will be a rare case indeed which is resolved on this default basis.
This case is from Episode 35 of interpretationNOW!