Singular meaning

MK v R [2023] NSWCCA 180

MK was convicted of maintaining an ‘unlawful sexual relationship’ with a child13.  That term is defined as ‘a relationship in which an adult engages in 2 or more unlawful sexual acts towards a child over any period’. Two earlier cases held that a sexual relationship over and above commission of the offences was needed14.

This was ‘plainly wrong’.  Consistent with context, purpose and history, the definition had only one possible meaning – that there was a relationship of some kind (eg teacher and student) within which the offences were committed.  There was no miscarriage of justice.  Beech-Jones CJ confirmed that statutory context extends to the existing state of the law15.

This principle is from Episode 101 of interpretation NOW!


13 s 66EA(1) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

14 R v RB [2022] NSWCCA 142, RW v R [2023] NSWCCA 2.

15 Page [2021] NSWCA 204 [30], cf Gageler (2011) 37/2 Monash ULR 1 (at 9).