Acts Interpretation Amendment (Court Procedures) Bill 2003

Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

Bills Digest No. 171  2002-03

Acts Interpretation Amendment (Court Procedures) Bill 2003

This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.


Passage History
Main Provisions
Concluding Comments
Contact Officer & Copyright Details

Passage History

Acts Interpretation Amendment (Court Procedures) Bill 2003

Date Introduced: 5 June 2003

House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Attorney-General

Commencement: 7 July 2003


The Bill amends the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 (Cwlth) to make it clear that a reference in Commonwealth legislation to a summons, information or complaint (or other current forms of initiating proceedings) includes all relevant methods of initiating proceedings. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that changes to procedures for initiating proceedings in State and Territory law do not create any unintended problems for the prosecution of criminal offences under Commonwealth law.


The Commonwealth does not have its own criminal courts. Commonwealth offences are prosecuted in State and Territory Courts.

Changes to New South Wales criminal procedure commence on 7 July 2003. The changes include the introduction of new court attendance notices to take the place of the old system of summons laid upon information or complaint made before a Justice.

As a result of these changes, certain Commonwealth provisions that rely on existing terminology may no longer be effective. It is also possible that other States and Territories will introduce similar changes in the future.

The Acts Interpretation Act 1901 (Cwlth) provides statutory authority for methods of interpretation of all Commonwealth legislation. It avoids repetition of common provisions thereby reducing the size of Commonwealth statutes.

Main Provisions

Item 1 of Schedule 1 inserts new section 27A into the Acts Interpretation Act 1901. As noted above, the new section will ensure that references in Commonwealth legislation to the commencement of proceedings (by State or Territory procedures) are taken to include all documents through which proceedings may be instituted in a court.

Item 2 ensures that the amendment applies to proceedings on or after 7 July 2003. If the Bill does not come into effect by that date the amendment will have a retrospective operation. However, as the nature of the amendment is to allow existing procedures to continue to operate and has no effect on the rights or obligations of the individual, no issue concerning the presumption against the retrospective operation of statutes arises.

Concluding Comments

The Bill is purely technical in nature. Its passage will ensure that no unintended technical problems arise in the initiation of criminal proceedings under Commonwealth criminal law in State and Territory courts.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Jane Hearn
12 June 2003
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This paper has been prepared for general distribution to Senators and Members of the Australian Parliament. While great care is taken to ensure that the paper is accurate and balanced, the paper is written using information publicly available at the time of production. The views expressed are those of the author and should not be attributed to the Information and Research Services (IRS). Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion. Readers are reminded that the paper is not an official parliamentary or Australian government document.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 2003

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 2003.

Back to top