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The Australian Legal System: Case Brief Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Aug 22nd, 2022

Introduction

General Overview of the Case

Tom Butcher is an apprentice chef who went to work with his carve knife. He was arrested by the police officer for the infringement of the S 1 of Dangerous Weapon Amendment of the Crimes Act 2010. The accused was carrying the knife in a sheath, but the jacket swung openly so that the Constable could see it. The problem is that the accused did not have intentions to use the knife as a dangerous weapon for committing acts of violence in a public place.

Discussion and Assessment

Discussing the Outcomes of the Case

The defendant should be aware of the outcomes of his act. In spite of the fact that his actions did not provide any criminal intentions, it will be considered as an infringement against the Amendment issued by the New South Wales government highlighting that carrying a knife, gun, or any dangerous weapon is considered a statute violation and will be punished with a $ 2 000 fine.

According to Gifford and Salter (1996), “[i]n finding out what the state of the law was before the Act was passed the reader is not limited to the state of the Acts of Parliament as they then existed” (p. 79). Interpreting this statement, the Acts of Parliament can be amended in case of discovering the defects, using any materials for finding the mischief.

Rules of Statutory Interpretation for Resolving the Problem

Common law

Golden and literate rule

In accordance with the Crimes (Dangerous Weapons Amendment) Act 2010, section one, it is considered to be an infringement to carry a knife, gun, and another dangerous weapon in a public place. Due to the fact that Australian common law is subjected to statute interpretation, it means that the government’s decision can be decisive in returning a verdict. What is more important is that it does not depend on a traditional approach in evaluating the statutes by means of golden, mischief, and literate rule. However, in this case, the application of golden and mischief rules is crucial for preventing absurd accusations.

In accordance with the golden rule, it is a very useful rule in the construction of a statute to adhere to the ordinary meaning of the words used, and to the grammatical construction unless that is at variance with the intention of the legislature to be collected from the statute itself or leads to any manifest absurdity or repugnance (Barker, 2000, p. 36).

The necessity of considering the golden rule in this particular case is vital due to the background circumstance. To be more precise, Mr. Butcher was not going to use this weapon for committing acts of violence. Therefore, in case the circumstances and the evidence of the crime are not clarified as the judge can refer to this common law to provide explanation and justification to the relevance of crime and accusation. The amendment to the New South Wales Crimes Act 2010 does not provide consistent and specific implications toward the established amendment. Therefore, there is an utmost necessity to refer to common law.

Mischief Rule

The application of the mischief rule is also imperative because it will help include changes and amendments to the established clause and define what mischief or defect a particular law has. In our case, it is necessary to specify the intent and purpose of carrying the weapon to take further actions. A good acquittal, in this case, will be the presence of a physical element and the jury must resolve the question concerning the seriousness of the intention and the extent to which a person is dangerous for the public (Latimer, 2008, p. 217). Besides, there is no element of provocation because the knife was held in the sheath and the arrested person did not perform any actions and movements that look like an attack or a threat to other people. Even if there is a threat of unintentional bodily harm, the knife is covered with a sheath which provides no chances for being wounded.

The application of the mischief rule presupposes that it “cannot be used to limit the meaning of words when that meaning is plain” (p. 81). On the other hand, if the meaning of words is not ambiguous and provides no other connotations and meanings, the statute cannot be subjected to the mischief rule.

The intention of the Parliament with regard to the case under consideration

Purpose Rule

The scope of the purposive approach consists in the application of intentions theories of interpreting statutes. Due to the fact that the Australian legal system does not include a consistent theoretical framework for statutory interpretation, it still resorts to the so-called purposive approach. In accordance with section 15 AA of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, “a construction that would promote the purpose or object underlying the Act …shall be preferred to a construction that would not promote that purpose or object” (Concorati and Bottomley, 2005, p. 25). What is more problematic is that there are different approaches to purposive interpretation applied by the court. Therefore, the statutory provision may have the effect court’s decision concerning the adoption of a purposive approach without properly explaining the methods for reaching this decision.

Significant attention must be paid to the problem of the intention of the Acts issued by the Parliament. Due to the fact that there might be inconsistency between what the Parliament intends through the enactment of a particular statute and what is ascertainably from this statute. In other words, people often fail to understand the meaning of the rule because the scope of the rule can be interpreted in different ways (Gifford and Salter, 1996, p. 84). With regard to the case under consideration, the context of the clause introduction was due to a significant rise of violence in society, particularly the crimes including young criminals carrying knives in the street. On the one hand, the accused should have been aware of this legal context and have followed the rules even if he had no criminal intentions. On the other hand, the clause does not specify the definition of a dangerous weapon and the conditions of carrying them in the street.

The above-presented considerations can be also ratified by certain presumptions. In particular, “an act does not make a person guilty unless that person’s mind is guilty of a criminal offense” (Barker, 2000, p. 37). Criminal intent is crucial for securing a conviction. Therefore, the accusation was based on the fact that Mr. Butcher could use the knife as a means for committing acts of violence. However, the accused did not have any criminal intentions and therefore he could not be subjected to criminal liability.

Penalty Statute

Magistrates rely on the special Act creating conferring jurisdiction and offense when imposing fines and imprisonment. The government has the right to impose $ 200 as a maximum penalty if the offense is not heavy (Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics and Australian Bureau of Statistics, p. 590). Due to the fact that the defendant violated the law, he should be punished with a fine or imprisonment event the offense was committed without intention or negligence. Such crimes are referred to as strict liability (Latimer, 2008, p. 78).

There are cases when strict liability can be prevented and defended. In particular, the defense can “cover offenses where no men’s rea is required” (Lanham, Bartal, and Evans, 2006, p. 385). In other words, an offense that is not caused by the negligence of laws, but rather by unconscious ignorance is called a mistake of fact. This factor can deprive a person of criminal liability, which can also apply to the case at issue. In particular, Mr. Butcher may unintentionally commit the offense because his action does not impose any men’s rea. The arrested did not want to commit any acts of violence in the street and the knife was necessary for other purposes. This circumstance can be taken into consideration in the court because his actions can be estimated as a mistake of fact and there is a possibility that the punishment will be canceled.

Reaching the Conclusion and Predicting Decision of the Court

Due to the fact that the Australian legal system largely relies on common law and statutes, the Parliament contributes greatly to correcting and amending laws. The main peculiarity of the legislature formation in Australia, hence, consists in using a purposive approach in interpreting statutes. Considering the case at issue, it should be stressed that there the arrest cannot be fully justified due to some circumstances and possibilities for defenses. The concerns are specifically connected with men’s rea, a mistake of fact, and the criminal intentions of the accused.

Reference List

Barker, D. (2000). Essential Australian Law. NY: Routledge.

Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, and Australian Bureau of Statistics. (n. d.). Official Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia. Australia: Bureau of Statistics.

Concorati, S., and Bottomley S. (2005). Interpreting Statutes. US: Federation Press.

Gifford, D. J. and Salter, J. R. (1996). How to understand an act of Parliament. NY: Routledge.

Lanham, D., Bartal, B. F., and Evans, R. (2006). Criminal Laws in Australia. US: Federation Press.

Latimer, P. (2008). 2009 Australian Business Law. Australia: CCH Australia Limited.

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