New Zealand Law Society - Definition of 'the Crown' a difficult matter

Definition of 'the Crown' a difficult matter

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Providing a standard default definition of “the Crown” in the Interpretation Act 1999 is a difficult question and the Law Commission should consider the matter before further steps are taken, the Law Society says.

A Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO) discussion paper on the Interpretation Act 1999 asks whether there should be a comprehensive definition of “the Crown” in the Act, because the meaning of the term can cause difficulties.

In comments on the discussion paper, the Law Society agrees that the meaning of the term can cause difficulties, and can vary significantly depending on the context.

“The discussion paper notes that there are a number of definitions of ‘the Crown’ across the statute book and that, if undefined, the question of who is the Crown may not always be clear. The Law Society agrees with this statement,” it says.

The Law Society says the definition of “the Crown” is a very significant issue, with important constitutional and legal ramifications. Any definition will impact on the Crown’s legal rights and obligations, and will also impact on legal rights of citizens.

“We doubt a single definition is possible – or if one is possible, it will likely be at such a level of generality that it serves no real purpose,” it says.

“We do not agree that a standard default provision should be included in the Interpretation Act without a full policy analysis of the issue. A standard default provision is in our view likely to cause more problems than it is likely to solve.”

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