Principle of legality

Commissioner of Police v Guo[2016] FCAFC 62

The principle of legality gets plenty of court time these days.  Very clear words in an Act are needed to exclude important common law rights and doctrines.  The issue in this case was whether public interest immunity was available in the AAT to prevent police being asked about informants. The finding (at [62-66]), that immunity was not excluded here, shows the practical grip of the principle. 

The same principle applies with human rights – that is, a ‘construction favouring liberty’ is preferred9.  However, human rights are ‘not absolute’, especially where their exercise would frustrate legislation that is ‘plain on its face’10

This case is from Episode 13 of interpretationNOW!


9  Foster v Shaddock [2016] QCA 35 (at [43]).

10  R v IBAC [2016] HCA 8 (at [71, 77]).