QUESTION 3: INTERPRETING STATUTES (1,200 WORDS)
(a) Section 5 of the (hypothetical) Civic Spaces Act 2009 (WA) provides, “It is an offence to deface any public space in Western Australia”. The maximum penalty is $500.
In the course of his second reading speech the responsible Minister told Parliament that: “The reason why we need this legislation is because we are sick of idiots defacing our public places, especially our trains and buildings, with their foul pictures and meaningless graffiti. We want families to be able to come to the city and not be confronted by this rubbish”.
The Long Title of the Act is: “An Act to Promote Clean Public Places”.
On 20 July 2010, Rosie, an artist with a social conscience, draws a large picture, using chalk, on the pavement outside Parliament depicting a homeless person under a bridge. She does the same drawing, using paint, on the toilet door of a public library. The caption on both, in her finest print, says “Make Homelessness History”.
Rosie is arrested and charged on summons with two breaches of s 5 of the Civic Spaces Act 2009. Drawing on your understanding of the common law and statutory guides to statutory interpretation, advise Rosie as to whether she should plead guilty to these charges.
(b) Section 314 of the (hypothetical) Road Offences Act was passed in 1997. It provides that “the use of a mobile phone whilst driving is an offence”. In the definition section of the Act (s 4) “use” is defined as “communicating with a mobile phone in any way whatsoever”. The same section defines a “mobile phone” as being, inter alia, “an electronic device used to communicate with another user”. “Driving” is defined as “being in control of a vehicle whilst on the road”. When s. 314 was introduced the responsible Minister, in her second reading speech, said that the purpose of the legislation was to reduce the rate of motor vehicle accidents caused by the use of mobile phones: “Mobile phones are a menace in the hands of car drivers and we intend to do something about it.”
In each of the following cases, the defendant was charged with an offence under s 314:
• Whilst she was driving to the zoo Anna was, from time to time, consulting Google maps on her iPad, so as to ensure that she would not get lost;
• Charlie was talking on his mobile phone while in his car which was parked
on the side of the road.
Drawing on your understanding of the common law and statutory guides to statutory interpretation, how would you decide Anna’s and Charlie’s cases?
(NB: If you need more facts to answer this question indicate what they are and why you need them.)