Statutory labels

Attorney General v WB [2020] NSWCA 7

WB was unfit to stand trial for sexual offences and committed to a facility for 3 years.  He became a ‘forensic patient’ by statutory definition8, something which could be extended on an interim or final basis.  If his status as a ‘forensic patient’ lapsed for any reason (including timing issues), could a final order be made to extend that status?  Answer – ‘no’.

Basten JA said that, though ‘forensic patient’ is a statutory label9, it has a purpose – ‘to identify the status of a person who could be the subject of an order’.  Text and context supported expiry of status preventing any final order.  Otherwise, people could be in perpetual jeopardy of their liberty being taken.

This principle is from Episode 58 of interpretation NOW!


8 s 42 Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990, cf Eps 33, 46, 48.

9 cf Starr [2007] FCA 23 (at [30]), Bennion (at 571-572).