Penal provisions

GL v R [2022] NSWCCA 202

One issue was the basis on which the ‘standard non-parole period’ (SNPP) for child sex offences was to be determined.  Sentencing must accord with ‘patterns and practices at the time of sentencing’, but the SNPP is that period ‘(if any) that applied at the time of the offence’12.  Transitional provisions, however, appeared to produce a different outcome.

Hamill J (at [108]) preferred the ‘time of offence’ answer in the core provision.  This was supported by the ‘last resort’ principle13 that, absent clear words, penal provisions are read to ‘favour the liberty of the subject’14.  This is consistent with meaning being resolved by reference to context and purpose15.

This principle is from Episode 90 of interpretation NOW!


12 ss 25AA(1) & (2) of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW).

13 Beckwith (1976) 135 CLR 569 (at 576-577), Stevens [2005] HCA 58 (at [45]).

14 Aubrey [2017] HCA 18 (at [39]), Grajewski [2017] NSWCCA 251 (at [55]).

15 cf Episodes 25, 35, 50 & 71.