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Flag-burning protests are likely to continue

Flag-burning protests are likely to continue

Police have withdrawn charges against three men accused of burning the New Zealand flag during a political protest.

Disorderly behaviour charges were laid in the Wellington District Court after the flag was publicly burned in Parliament Grounds on 29 July. The police prosecution was reconsidered after a legal opinion indicated that the case was unlikely to succeed. Apparently the police were advised that the right to free speech overrode the law making the burning of the flag with intent to dishonour it illegal.

The development in the Wellington District Court follows the August decision of the High Court to overturn a conviction under the Flags Emblems and Names Protection Act 1981 on a charge of dishonouring the flag.

The public desecration of our flag cannot be justified, and the law must protect the flag against such behaviour. Free speech only exists in this country because of the sacrifice of people who have fought under our flag. Their memory is slighted by its public desecration. These recent decisions are likely to encourage protestors to dishonour the flag. The New Zealand Flag Institute calls upon Parliament to strengthen the law to safeguard our flag against further public insult.

New Zealand Flag Institute

12th October 2004

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