Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is slavery?

In R v Wei Tang (2007) 16 VR 454; 172 A Crim R 224; 212 FLR 145 (CA) Eames JA looking at s 270 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) interpreted the section as follows, with whom the other judges agreed (at 469; 239-240; 161 [67]):

“The statutory definition of “slavery” is only satisfied if the person is in “the condition of slavery”, which in turn can only be created by someone exercising over the person any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership. That requires both an identification of what constitutes a right of ownership and what constitutes the powers that “attach to” that right. The fundamental feature of ownership is the claim of absolute right over the property that it gives to the owner as against all others to possess the property, save to the extent that the right to possession is qualified by any law, or by permission given by the owner to another. As AM Honore noted, the right to possession – that is, the right to have exclusive physical control of a thing, or such control as the nature of the thing permits – is “the foundation on which the whole superstructure of ownership exists”. Professor Honore drew the distinction between “having” a thing and “having a right” to the thing: only the latter is an assertion of a right attaching to ownership, namely, the right to possession.” 


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