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Chief Censor and Board he sat on Admits Error

Chief Censor and Board he sat on Admits Major Error

Media Release 12 November 2004

The Chief Censor Bill Hastings has admitted in the Annual Report 2004 of the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) which was tabled in parliament yesterday that the Film and Literature Board of Review “had no jurisdiction to hold the review that started the entire Living Word process” (page 16) Here he refers to the landmark censorship case involving two so-called “anti-gay” videos distributed by Living Word Distributors Ltd based in Hamilton, that were submitted to the Board for reclassification in 1997 by the Wellington-based gay-rights activist group Human Rights Action Group (HRAG) and were the subject of two appeals against the Board’s decision by the distributor: first to the High Court and second to the Court of Appeal.

In a landmark decision dated 31 August 2000 that sent shock-waves through much of the “gay” community, and deeply upset Bill Hastings, an openly homosexual man, and the respondent (another openly homosexual man Calum Bennachie representing HRAG), the Court of Appeal quashed a decision issued by the High Court on 1 March 2000 that had upheld a banning order imposed on both videos by the Board. The matter was then remitted back to the Board from the Court of Appeal for a fresh consideration and classification de novo in the light of the Court’s findings. Nine months later the Board very reluctantly issued a new classification of both videos as “unrestricted” (GayRights: Special Rights: Inside the Homosexual Agenda and AIDS: What You Haven’t Been Told).

Mr Hastings admission in his latest Annual Report means that the Board never had any authority to deal with the matter of the reclassification of the Living Word videos in the first place because the application by HRAG was made outside the statutory time-limit as set out in s. 48 of the Film, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 (“the Act”). HRAG had 30 working days to make its application to the Board following the publication of the classification decisions for both videos in the OFLC List of Decisions. As Mr Hastings documents, HRAG left it to the very last day, the 30th working day, 17 February 1997, before seeking “leave” from the Secretary of Internal Affairs, which if granted gives an applicant the right to make application for a review to the Board. If that second step had been made by HRAG AND the required fee paid by 17 February, it would have been on time and the Board would have had jurisdiction under the Act to review the classification. HRAG failed to make its application to the Board on time.

The Secretary granted leave to HRAG some time after 17 February 1997. Nevertheless the Board, in the full knowledge of these facts, acted ultra vires in accepting HRAG’s late application for review and proceeded to reclassify the videos. This resulted in them both being classified “objectionable” and therefore put off limits to all members of the public for a number of years. It is noteworthy that Bill Hastings was the Deputy President of the Board at that time and appears to have had significant input into the legal aspects of the ill-fated and erroneous ruling.

HRAG had first submitted both videos to the Classification Office in 1996 when it was then headed by the late Ms Kathryn Paterson, before the matter proceeded to the Board on which Mr Hastings sat. The decision which Ms Paterson signed as Chief Censor classified the film R18 with no further restrictions and this angered HRAG (=Calum Bennachie) which wanted the videos totally banned. That is why HRAG had sought a reclassification of the videos in the first place by seeking first, leave from the Secretary of Internal Affairs, then making application to the Board for a review.

Mr Hastings persists in his attack on the Court of Appeal ruling that led to the unbanning of these videos. All his reports in the OFLC Annual Reports since that decision was issued have devoted a significant number of pages to attacking it. His latest effort devotes almost six pages to “Ongoing Consequences of Living Word.”!

References:

For a full transcript of the film: GayRights/Special Rights: Inside the Homosexual Agenda see: http://www.christian-apologetics.org/html/Gay_rights_Special_rights.htm

For a full transcript of the film: AIDS: What You Haven’t Been Told see: http://www.christian-apologetics.org/html/Aids.htm
Reports on Court of Appeal Decision of 31 August 2000 Quashing Video Ban
Full Judgement from the Court of Appeal - August 31 2000 http://www.christian-apologetics.org/html/Reports_on_Court.htm

ENDS


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