High Court of Australia

Coleman v Power [2004] HCA 39

220 CLR 1; 78 ALJR 1166; 209 ALR 182

1 Sep 2004

Case Number: B98/2002

Before

Gleeson CJ, McHugh, Gummow, Kirby, Hayne, Callinan, Heydon JJ

Catchwords

Statutes – Acts of Parliament – Interpretation – Meaning of "threatening, abusive and insulting words" under Vagrants, Gaming and Other Offences Act 1931 (Q) ("Vagrants Act"), s 7(1)(d) – Where appellant arrested for using insulting words to a person in a public place contrary to s 7(1)(d) – Whether "insulting words" must be reasonably likely to provoke physical retaliation.

Statutes – Acts of Parliament – Interpretation – Whether, if Vagrants Act s 7(1)(d) invalid, appellant's arrest was lawfully authorised by the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 1997 (Q) ("Police Powers Act"), s 35(1) – Whether convictions for obstructing and assaulting police are valid.

Statutes – Acts of Parliament – Construction and interpretation – Relevance of international obligations assumed by the Commonwealth after enactment of State statute – Whether State Acts to be interpreted to be consistent with international law of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Constitutional law (Cth) – Implied freedom of communication about government or political matters – Whether Vagrants Act, s 7(1)(d) effectively burdened freedom of communication about government or political matters – Whether s 7(1)(d) reasonably appropriate and adapted to serve a legitimate end in a manner which is compatible with the maintenance of the constitutionally prescribed system of representative and responsible government – Whether s 7(1)(d) invalid to the extent that it penalised persons using insulting words where those words had a political content or purpose and the penalty constituted a burden on the freedom of political communication.

Constitutional law (Cth) – Implied freedom of communication about government or political matters – Whether Police Powers Act, s 35(1) invalid to the extent that it seeks to make lawful the arrest of a person on a charge under Vagrants Act, s 7(1)(d) for uttering insulting words in the course of making statements concerning political and governmental matters.

Words and Phrases – "insult", "insulting", "threatening, abusive and insulting words", "to any person", "public place".

Acts Interpretation Act 1954 (Q) – ss 9, 14B.

Criminal Code (Q) – ss 23(2), 340(b).

Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 1997 (Q) – ss 35(1), 38, 120.

Vagrants – Gaming and Other Offences Act 1931 (Q), ss 7(1)(d), 7A(1)(a), 7A(1)(c).
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