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Human Rights Commission Rejects Criticism

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Human Rights Commission Rejects Stephen Franks' Criticism

Stephen Franks' recent criticism of the Human Rights Commission is based on a misrepresentation says Chris Lawrence, the Proceedings Commissioner at the Commission. Mr Franks had issued a press release about the Court of Appeal's recent decision in a censorship case involving two anti-gay videos. He said that "our Human Rights Commissars had lawyers in court urging the censor's case" and that the court's decision was " a resounding embarrassment for the Commission".

Lawrence says it is simply untrue to say that the Commission had urged the censor's case or that the outcome of the case was an embarrassment to the Commission. He says that the Commission applied to be a party to the case because it wanted to make submissions on what it saw as the relevant principles and questions of statutory interpretation. That role, Lawrence says, was similar to the role played in the case by the Attorney- General. He says that the Commission did not take sides in relation to the two videos themselves and that this was made clear in its submissions to the court. In those submissions the Commission had said

"The Commission's primary concern as regards the outcome of the present appeal is therefore in relation to the matters of principle at issue rather than the particular publications at issue -- the two videos -- or indeed a defence of the particular censorship decisions"

That makes it clear that Mr Franks is wrong to say that the Commission "urged the censor's case". Its role in these proceedings was not a partisan one. It had expressed a concern that the censorship laws be effective generally in dealing with publications which incite discrimination but did not take sides in the particular case or argue that the particular censorship decisions at issue were legally correct.

Mr Franks is of course free to criticise the Commission but he should avoid misrepresentation.

ENDS

For further information please contact Glyn Walters, Communications Officer on 025 313 239.

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