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Censorship law changes introduced


Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice
Media Statement

2 December 2003

Censorship law changes introduced

People producing, trading or distributing objectionable material such as child pornography will face up to 10 years' jail under tough new penalties in legislation introduced to Parliament by Justice Minister Phil Goff today.

For the first time, the fact that objectionable material is child pornography will also be treated as an aggravating factor at sentencing.

The Films, Videos and Publications Classification Amendment Bill is a response to the explosion in internet-based child pornography.

It extends the offences of trading and distribution to cover all forms of distribution, whether or not commercial gain was involved, and creates a new offence of 'possession with knowledge' to apply where a person has reasonable cause to believe the publication was objectionable.

Possession with knowledge will carry a maximum penalty of two years' jail. This means that possession of objectionable material will now be covered by search warrant powers.

"Existing penalties – one year's jail for producing, copying or trading child pornography, and a $2000 fine for possessing child pornography – are clearly inadequate," Mr Goff said.

"The recent case of an Auckland man trading, advertising and collecting images that included rape of children as young as three, toddlers being tortured and adults inflicting sexual acts on babies, which did not result in a prison term, is clear evidence of the need for much tougher penalties.

"The tougher penalties also reflect the abhorrence with which society regards such offending. Child pornography involves the actual abuse of children, and those who trade or possess it are encouraging that abuse by creating a market for the images.

"Radical changes to existing laws were needed because the internet has made it frighteningly easy for sexual images of children to be traded anonymously and cheaply around the world.

"The internet enables people to access and exchange thousands of objectionable images that can be easily stored on home computers, without the effort once required to acquire such material."

The Bill also creates the offences of exporting and importing objectionable material.

Mr Goff said the Bill largely maintains the definition of “objectionable”, which sets the standard for banning material.

“The Court of Appeal has ruled that censorship laws are fundamentally concerned with sex, horror, cruelty, crime and violence, or similar matters. The government agrees that this is where the focus of the law should remain.

"We have, however, taken the opportunity to clarify that 'sexualised’ nude images of children are classifiable, and that offensive language or behaviour on their own can be the subject of restrictions."

Mr Goff said this Bill did not address the issues of covert filming or hate speech. These will be addressed through other avenues.

"Hate speech, like racism, should be dealt with as a human rights issue, which is the way most countries treat it. Similarly, the covert filming of people in intimate situations is fundamentally an invasion of privacy.

"I strongly support the introduction of tough legislative sanctions to deter the increase in covert filming. However I do not believe censorship legislation is the appropriate mechanism for addressing it.

"The Ministry of Justice and the Law Commission are currently working through both issues, which are likely to be dealt with through changes to privacy, human rights and criminal legislation."

All Phil Goff’s media releases and speeches are posted at www.beehive.govt.nz


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