Power of purpose

Russell v R [2023] NSWCCA 272

This ‘extreme body modification’ case is a sequel to the genital mutilation decision, R v A2 [2019] HCA 35.  R was convicted of genital mutilation14 – labiaplasty on a consenting adult female.  He appealed on the basis High Court dicta made it clear the offence was confined to ritual acts committed on female children.

The court found ‘no textual support’ for this and plenty against it.  Despite the fact that the High Court statements were not part of the ratio, however, they were ‘seriously considered dicta’ and to be followed15 – appeal allowed.  The court emphasised (at [33-38]) that an ordinary meaning inconsistent with purpose ‘must be rejected’.  iTip – purpose is powerful!

This principle is from Episode 103 of interpretation NOW!


14 s 45(1)(a) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

15 Farah [2007] HCA 22 [134], Hill v Zuda [2022] HCA 21 [25].