Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler


Update: Into the River

I noted in my last blog post, Into the River/interim restrictions, that I had applied to revoke the Interim Restriction order that is presently banning the distribution of Ted Dawe's award-winning you-adult novel, Into the River. Interim Restrictions orders have been relaxed several times in the past (generally to allow people temporarily banned from seeing a film to see the film so they can properly engage in the review process), so it was not wholly without hope.

Public Libraries of New Zealand,  the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa, and the Publishers Association of New Zealand, also applied to have it revoked. I feel like I was in good company.

We received the decision earlier today. The application was refused. The temporary ban remains in place until the Board of Review makes its decision early next month.

The full decision follows. It does not really enage with any of the arguments that have been levelled against the decision, and, as with the original decision, does not even mention freedom of expression.


  1. I have received, through the Department of Internal Affairs, several applications for the revocation of the interim restriction order currently in existence in relation to INTO THE RIVER. Such applications have been made by Public Libraries of NZ, The Publishers’ Association of NZ, LIANZA and Mr Graeme Edgeler. I have given them careful consideration and have decided not to revoke the interim restriction order.
  1. The Board expects to meet on 2 October to consider the review which has been sought by Family First. That is the earliest practical date on which it is possible for the 5-member Board to meet, allowing sufficient time for the development and lodgement of submissions by eligible submitters. Those submissions will receive full consideration by the whole Board which considered the book at length in 2013 and imposed an R14 restriction.
  2. The main reason for the interim restriction order remains valid. To repeat it, it is important that the Board’s consideration of whether any restriction on availability is appropriate is not inhibited in any way by further distribution in the short period before the Board’s decision, whatever it is, is reached and published.
  3. In light of what has just been said, it is unnecessary to decide whether I am satisfied that each of the applicants for revocation is “detrimentally affected by the existence of the order” (s.51(2)(c) of the Act).

Dr D L Mathieson QC
President of the Film and
Literature Board of Review
14 September 2015


Into the River/Interim Restrictions

The Censor recently reclassified Ted Dawe’s award-winning young adult novel Into the River as “unrestricted” (.pdf). This decision is now to be reviewed by the Film and Literature Board of Review, whose President has imposed an interim restriction order, which means the book cannot be sold or distributed by anyone.

Essentially, the Board of Review is there to provide some community oversight over the decisions of the professional censors at the Office of Film and Literature Classification. While both are bound by the same laws, the basic idea is that if professional censors stray too far from community expectations, they can have the views of a wider group within the community made known to them. This goes both ways: the Board of Review has often lessened the restrictions imposed by the censor. Cruel Intentions was initially rated R18, but its rating was reduced in time for its video release to R16 (I have heard that the review was taken because distributors didn’t want to dilute the R18 brand, given the film didn’t actually contain sex). And it was a decision of the Board of Review over Saving Private Ryan that means the censor now rates films whose sole concern is that they depict "graphic and realistic war scenes” as R15, and not the R16 restriction the censor would have imposed.

There’s no automatic right of Review by the Film and Literature Board of Review, and the Board doesn’t make many decisions. It appears to have made two decisions in 2014 (including a review of five text message), and one decision in 2013 (their first look at Into the River, which changed rating to R14), and four in 2012 (including the US remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (confirming its R16 rating), and New Zealand Film Two Little Boys (reducing the censor’s R16 to an R15).

The Censor had looked at Into the River before, rating it “M (unrestricted and suitable for mature audiences 16 years and over) with the descriptive note 'Contains sex scenes, offensive language and drug use'”, but this decision was overturned by the Film and Literature Board of Review in 2013, which gave the book a unique R14 rating (Don Mathieson QC, the Board President (who has also imposed the Interim Restriction order), issued a rare dissenting view and would have rated the book R18).

This wasn’t all that long ago, so I was pretty surprised at news of the reclassification by the Censor. The Censor gets to make decisions, but these can be reviewed by the Film and Literature Board of Review, which gets to make (subject to High Court review) the final decision. As with all classification decisions, the Censor can revisit them after a time (it does so occasionally when asked, notably in respect of books banned years ago. In 2012, after the book ‘Bloody Mama’ (banned in 1971), was seized at the border, the Censor looked at it again, and reclassified it as unrestricted), but the general rule is that decisions stand for at least three years.

It’s been less than three years since that R14 decision of the Board of Review, so the Censor needed to be “satisfied that there are special circumstances justifying reconsideration”. The reasons given for finding that there were special circumstances were as follows:

Since this publication was classified R14 in January 2014 a number of factors have come to light which taken together amount to special circumstances justifying the reconsideration of the classification of the publication under s.42 of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. The factors include the range of views expressed by the Film and Literature Board of Review, the capacity of public libraries to mitigate the injury to the public good which might but for the restriction flow from unrestricted access to the book, the shared view of libraries across New Zealand, in particular the 63 public libraries run by local government authorities, the impact that the restriction has had on the value of the book as a teaching resource, and the significance of the book as an aid to countering issues in New Zealand about bullying.

The problem that was presented to the Censor, and which has led to the censor deciding that the R14 restriction unreasonably limits freedom of expression, is that it appears that the R14 restriction is stopping people aged 14 and up from accessing the book. Any restriction precludes the book being on library bookshelves, or easily accessible in book stores, because it could be picked up and by 13 year-olds, and most bookstores and most libraries do not have R14 (or even R18) sections to which children are not admitted. While perhaps not disagreeing that the book is appropriately limited to teens, the Censor has decided that the act of restricting the book has had a detrimental effect on freedom of expression for those who would appropriately have access to it, and that in light of the importance of the book, this restriction is unreasonable, especially in light of other things that can be done to limit the harm done to children who might access it.

I really like the decision of the Censor, and think that the appreciation of the unintended consequences of a possibly-justifiable-in-theory restriction is a welcome advance for freedom of speech in New Zealand. But it is probably no surprise, given the past (recent) controversy, that those who sought that the book be classified last time, would again seek to review the decision.

So that there is to be another review by the Film and Literature Board of Review isn’t surprising. What is noteworthy is that, pending the review (which might take a month or so), the President of the Board of Review has imposed an interim restriction, which bans anyone from supplying it to anyone else.

And there is a problem with this.

The Board of the Review said banning 14 year olds from reading Into the River would be unjustifiable, and even the President of the Board, who would have gone further, didn’t think everyone should be banned from reading it. Yet, for the next month or so, that’s basically what has happened (although if you already have a copy, you’re not breaking the law, you just can’t supply one to someone else).

I don’t think this an appropriate or proportionate used of the Interim Restriction power. When you’re talking about a publication like the film Baise-moi, interim restrictions can make sense. There were arguments that Baise-moi shouldn’t just be restricted, it should be banned. We have reviews and appeals for a reason, and the power to make an interim restriction order is in the law to allow the process to occur fairly. If those who consider a publication to be so detrimental to the public good are to be able to pursue this properly through the review process, or in the Courts, it’s appropriate that there is a discretionary power to restrict a publication while that is being sorted through. Without such a power, the damage (such as it is) that publication can supposedly do could be done, when, as a matter of law, it shouldn’t have been allowed.

But Into the River is not Baise-moi. There were arguments that Baise-moi was so injurious to the public that allowing anyone to see it would be harmful. No-one is arguing that Into the River should be banned. And yet, the Interim Restriction is a ban.

For me, the problem is way the Interim Restriction Regime is set up. It’s designed for films like Baise-moi, but in situation like this, it leaves the President of the Board of Review with two options: allow the decision of the Censor that Into the River should be unrestricted to stand while the board makes its decision, or ban the book while the board makes its decision. He doesn’t have the power to say: Into the River has been R14 for the last 18 months, can we leave it at that for another month while we make a new decision, in light of the new evidence? That's probably a hole in the law, but its certainly not one I'd have picked up before today.

The Board has already looked at Into the River and decided that, if 12 and 13 year-olds read it, there is a risk they may be harmed. I suspect that the President of the Board of Review has had that decision in mind when he made his decision: if the Board was “right” and 12 and 13 year-olds will be harmed if they read Into the River, then that harm can now occur. It is possible that the Board will maintain its view, and the President of the Board sees it as his responsibility to maintain the status quo ante, in light of that still pretty recent decision. For the next month or so, 12 and 13 year-olds will be banned from accessing Into the River, it’s just that, unfortunately, the only way he can achieve that end, is to ban everyone from accessing it.

In my mind, the decision is clearly wrong. Whatever risk of harm there is, that harm is nowhere near the highest level, and the possibility of that harm is not enough that it is justifiable to ban everyone from accessing this book, even for a month. The Bill of Rights permits the balancing of societal interests, against individuals’ interests, but in a situation like this, where everyone agrees that the adult population should be permitted to read this book, the possibility an R14 restriction may come into in force in a month’s time does not come close to providing a demonstrably justifiable reason for a temporary ban.

But there's not really a lot any of us can do about it in the meantime. [edit: as Andrew Geddis notes in the comments, it is possible to apply to have an Interim Restriction Order revoked, if one is "a person ... detrimentally affected by the existence of the order". As such a person (I would like to buy the book), I have applied to have the order revoked. I see no reason why there shouldn't be more than one application, however.] Unfortuantely, it's just one more thing to add to the list of problems with our censorship laws.


I am grateful to the Association of New Zealand Booksellers for uploading the decision granting the Interim Restrict order (here as .pdf). Why this is not available on the DIA website, or the website of the Censor, I am not sure. The reasons given for the interim restriction are:

This order is in the public interest for the following reasons:

1. The classification of Into the River under the Act is a matter of wide public concern, as evidenced by the volume of submissions to the Classification Office and published comments.

2. The decision of the Classification Office would radically alter the decision of the Board of Review.

3. It is particularly appropriate that the Board should have an opportunity to consider the publication a fresh without being inhibited in any way by any distribution occurring between now and the date of the Board’s decision.

4. It is debatable, and a matter of independent public interest, whether the Chief Censor acted lawfully under section 42(3)(b) of the Act in deciding that “special circumstances” exist.

5. It is highly arguable whether the Classification Office has reached the correct conclusion on the application for reconsideration before it.

6. The correct classification of Into the River under the Act will operate as a semi-precedent, and will exert a significant influence upon other decisions portraying teenage sex and drug-taking.

As you can see, there is no consideration of the wider effect of the order.


Cameron Slater: computer hacker?

In September last year, David Parker laid a complaint with the Police about a supposed “hack” of the Labour Party website by Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater. On Friday, Police released a letter explaining that their investigation was over, and they were satisfied that “there was no evidence of criminal offending”. They considered that while the matter “may raise privacy and ethical issues, these are not the domain of the criminal law.”

I will be clear: based on what I understand occurred, I do not think Cameron Slater’s “hack” of the Labour Party server donor’s list was criminal. I think an interpretation of the law that would mean that what I understand Cameron did was criminal would make illegal a lot of things that I do not think should be illegal, and think that we should be reluctant to interpret the particulars laws in play here in a way that would render a great deal of ordinary computer use subject to prosecution.

The possible offence we are considering is the offence against section 252 of the Crimes Act: accessing a computer system without authorisation. You commit a crime if you:

  • intentionally access (directly or indirectly)
  • any computer system
  • without authorisation
  • and you either know that you are not authorised to access that computer system, or are reckless as to whether or you are authorised to access that computer system.”

But the law comes with a caveat: this offence is not committed “if a person who is authorised to access a computer system accesses that computer system for a purpose other than the one for which that person was given access.”

For me, this subsection means that Cameron, who was, like the rest of us, authorised to go to Labour’s server to look at Labour’s website, was not committing a crime by looking at the other files that Labour had left open to view on their server.

But I have to concede that my interpretation has problems. I have authorisation from Google to access its servers to check my gmail account. I do not have authorisation from Google to access their servers to read your gmail account, but the interpretation I favour does mean that my hacking a gmail account of someone else, which I clearly have no right to access, may not be criminal (although there are other offences that might be committed if there's dishonesty involved, or I cause damage) because I would be accessing gmail’s servers (which I am authorised to do, to read my emails) for a purpose other than the one for which I was given access.

And there are arguments for an alternative interpretation of the law. The definition of computer system is open to some interpretation

computer system—

(a) means—

(i) a computer; or

(ii) 2 or more interconnected computers; or

(iii) any communication links between computers or to remote terminals or another device; or

(iv) 2 or more interconnected computers combined with any communication links between computers or to remote terminals or any other device; and

(b) includes any part of the items described in paragraph (a) and all related input, output, processing, storage, software, or communication facilities, and stored data.

You will note that “computer system” includes “any part” of a computer system.

The drafting of the definition in this way is, I think, intended to forestall arguments that someone has not accessed a computer system because all they actually did was access some small part of it. The argument “I didn’t access their computer system, all I did was access their hard drive” doesn’t fly.

But the definition can be argued the other way. The part of the gmail servers that contain your gmail account, is defined as a computer system. I may have permission to access other computer systems owned by Google, like the parts of their servers that contain my gmail account, but I lack authorisation to access that part which contains your (which, under this interpretation, is a separate computer system), and I could thus commit a crime if I access it.

I think this interpretation proves too much, in that it would render the caveat almost meaningless. If your work denies you permission to access the part of the hard drive which contains solitaire, but you play solitaire anyway, I think your actions should be protected by that caveat: you have permission to use your work computer, and your use it for a purpose other than work, may be an employment breach, which if serious enough, or repeated enough, might be grounds for termination, I don’t think it should be criminal.

But I have to concede that the argument can be made, and that my position does, in some respects, try to narrow the definition of computer system which might be seen as clear.

Which brings me back to the police investigation. The Police have said they don’t consider there was crime. That conclusion accords with my view, but the debate is a legal one.

I have been asked a few times about the possibility of private prosecutions arising from Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics. My advice is generally that prosecuting is hard: the defendant has a right to silence, you have to prove things beyond reasonable doubt, and private prosecutors can’t get search warrants. Dirty Politics contained several claims that could be allegations of criminal activity, but they will be difficult to prove without the coercive powers of the state.

But that caution doesn’t apply here. There is little if any factual dispute about what has happened here. It is not going to be difficult to prove that Cameron accessed the Labour Party website, or how it was done: Cameron published a video showing how he was able to access the information Labour had on its server. It is still online now.

What is left is a legal argument over whether what has been admitted amounts to criminal conduct.

Like I have said, I don’t think what Cameron explains doing in that video is criminal, but I know that some people in whose legal judgment I ordinarily place much confidence disagree with me, so I have to be open to the alternative view. If Labour seriously considers that what Cameron Slater did in accessing their server amounts to criminal hacking, a private prosecution to resolve the question will not be difficult.

I hope that, absent new evidence, a prosecution would fail, but for those who disagree with my view, the way forward is clear.


Necessity: or the Sky is Falling

Yesterday, Parliament went into urgency to pass a law to validate 10+ years of speeding fines, in an un-named number of council areas, thought to be up to 25.

I opined (can you tell I read Biggles books growing up?) on the Twitter (can you tell I watched Letterman?) that, just once, when we were told that an urgent law change was needed to patch some legislative mess, we should just say no, and see what happens.

But then, I remembered that had – albeit accidentally – already happened.

In 1990, New Zealand passed the Bill of Rights Act, which included a right to appeal convictions. Shortly after this, the Crimes Act was updated to provide for this right, expanding what had previously existed, which was the ability to apply for leave to appeal (if you couldn’t convince the court that your arguments were good enough to listen to, permission to appeal was denied, and you didn’t get to argue your appeal fully).

Because of this law change, the workload of the Court of Appeal increased. But they weren’t really set up for it, and they started cutting corners. Criminal appellants who arranged their own lawyers got full appeals, but those who were relying on legal aid (which for appeals, was then administered by the Court of Appeal) had extra hoops to jump through. A criminal would file a notice of appeal themselves (coming up with the arguments they could, usually without legal advice, and without access to important trial documents) and would ask for a legal aid lawyer to be appointed. The registrar of the Court of Appeal was supposed to consider whether legal aid should be granted, which required consideration of the interests of justice, in respect of which the input of a Judge could be sought. A practice developed whereby one judge would be asked, they would refer the matter to two other judges (all assisted by recent law graduate judge’s clerks), who would sign an internal legal aid document that agreed or disagreed that the interests of justice required a grant of legal aid.

If legal aid was denied, that was basically it. The person appealing wasn’t sent a “case on appeal” (which is all the important documents from the trial, including, for example, the trial transcript, and the judge’s summing up), despite the rules requiring this. They were usually told they could file their own submissions, but their case was never set down for oral argument, despite the rules requiring this as well. The Government didn’t send along a lawyer to argue for the Crown (that too was legally required, and is occasionally the reason an appeal succeeds!).

All that happened was that the case was set down to have the decision announced in open court. If submissions had been filed, there might be brief comments responding to them, but there was no full decision, and, quite often, the announcement of the decision would be at a different time than that which was announced. The judges officially dismissing the appeal might have been involved in the legal aid process, or might have had no knowledge of the case at all. On 29 June 2000, only one judge was present in Court to summarily dismiss two such appeals, and being aware that the Judicature Act required two judges to announce a decision, Justice Keith (who later became a judge of the World Court) apparently invited the Court registrar to take part, and both appeals were formally announced as being the decisions of Keith J and Madam Registrar.

This system had been going for about 10 years when it was finally challenged. There was a High Court case judicially reviewing the decision of the Court of Appeal registrar on legal aid, which the High Court, expressing some concerns, ordered to be heard in the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal, decided the case in a split decision, and leave was sought to appeal the decision on the Judicial Review to the Privy Council. The Court of Appeal hearing the application for leave to appeal, decided that, despite the case being a judicial review, it was nonetheless a criminal case, and they couldn’t grant leave to appeal. Lawyer Tony Ellis apparently elicited gasps from the other lawyers present by telling the Court that “there isn’t a carpet big enough for you to sweep this under” when the decision was announced. He was right.

Ultimately, instead of appealing the judicial review decision to the Privy Council, lawyers Tony Ellis and Antony Shaw found a group of people whose convictions had been summarily dismissed in this way, and bundled them together in an appeal of their criminal convictions to the Privy Council. The case is perhaps the most important criminal law case in New Zealand legal history: Fa'afete Taito v The Queen (.rtf).

Which is where we get to the validating legislation. After the cases reached the Privy Council, but before it had heard the appeal, or issued judgment, the Government reacted, and moved to pass legislation that would validate the other appeals that had been heard in this way. It wasn’t all stages urgency, but at first reading the bill was sent to the Government Administration Committee for only two weeks. It proved difficult, and the time was extended. Later still, the Bill was re-referred to the Justice and Electoral Committee, to which a group of Court of Appeal judges gave a briefing pressing for the passage of the bill, and the bill actually took over a year from introduction to passage, but it nonetheless passed before the Privy Council heard the case (there was a carve out for the particular cases already before the Court, but the legislation was intended to validate other similar appeals that had failed to comply with the Crimes Act appeal provisions, or the Court of Appeal Rules).

In March of 2002, the Privy Council did rule against the government, ordering the Court of Appeal to hear each appellant’s appeal again. And it did so in a particularly emphatic manner. Not only did the Privy Council find breaches of the Crimes Act, and Court of Appeal rules, but they invalidated the appeals on a number of other grounds as well. Which, of course, meant that the validating legislation didn’t actually validate anything. The practices of the Court of Appeal had been found seriously wanting, and the findings of around 1500 criminal appeals were in question.

This was the Armageddon that officials, and the even judges of the Court of Appeal had warned about. The feared consequences that had necessitated the passing of retrospective validating legislation had in fact occurred, because the validating legislation itself hadn’t done enough to fix the problem.

And the Government decided that, actually, it wouldn’t try again. A test case was brought to the Court of Appeal from among those affected by the unlawful appellate system, but who had not been included in the Privy Council appeal to see what would happen (this was Phillip Smith, now more famous for fleeing to Brazil, and currently facing charges of escaping prison), and the Court of Appeal decided that, he, like those who had gone to the Privy Council, would get a new appeal, and that anyone else who had had their appeal denied after being refused legal aid would be able to apply for a new appeal as well.

The Ministry of Justice advertised the availability of these re-hearings in prisons, and elsewhere, and hundreds of convicted criminal got new appeals. One of the Privy Council appellants, whose appeal had been deemed so hopeless that he shouldn’t even be allowed a lawyer to argue it, had his murder conviction overturned, and at his re-trial was convicted of manslaughter. Another of appellants, who had been convicted and sentenced on the basis that he was the ring-leader of an armed robbery, was in a later case determined to be so intellectually disabled that he was unfit to even undergo a criminal trial.

Most of the people who got new hearings didn’t win their appeals. But that is true of most criminal appeals. And it turned out that those who sought new appeals were only slightly less successful in their appeals than ordinary criminal appellants.

The worst case scenario actually happened. Ten years of Court of Appeal decisions in serious criminal cases were threatened, but the Government decided to re-legislate to fix it, and the sky did not fall in.

Which makes me wonder about yesterday’s urgent legislation to validate speed limits and speeding tickets.

What actually would have happened if legal process had been allowed to play out? I reckon very few people would actually have appealed five- or ten-year-old speeding fines (it was a fair cop, even if the posted limits had expired), but the Minister of Transport has said this wasn’t about revenue, but safety. Well, even if there aren’t speed limits, dangerous driving would still be illegal, and careless driving would still be illegal, so driving at 150km/h in a school zone would not suddenly go unpunished.

So I'm not convinced this was necessary. I’m not sure what the worst case scenario they fear is, but I doubt the sky would have fallen in, and maybe, one day, Parliament will again decide to chance it.


Somewhere* it's National Library Week

It being National Library week,* I thought this might be timely to post.

I’ve decided Auckland City Libraries are quite cool. First, they came up in Prime TV’s fantastic documentary series “The Naughty Bits” (its three episodes are all on-line here, and well worth watching), where they and Dylan Horrocks (whom I’ve also decided is cool), were discussing Alan Moore’s graphic novel Lost Girls, and concerns it might be seen as promoting the sexual exploitation of children (update: since the show was made, Lost Girls was rated R18 and is back in the library, although I’m not sure if the missing volumes have been replaced).

Then, there was their response to the petition asking them to withdraw from circulation the book To Train Up a Child (which has, I think probably reasonably fairly, been described as a manual for child abuse). The petition was a bit confusing, but the response was still strong:

There’s debate at the moment about a book we have in our collections called ‘To train up a child’ by Michael and Debi Pearl. We acknowledge this book is divisive and people may find its content offensive.

At Auckland Libraries our collections development policy defines our commitment to the principle of freedom of access to information and states that the library will not suppress or remove material on the grounds that it gives offence. 

I greatly admire the position libraries take on issues like this. The response from Auckland Library is exactly the position I want a library to take, and I’m glad they see their role as supporting freedom of expression.

I’ve had some push back on this view. And there are different debates to have on this issue. When you try to defend the libraries decision, you're asked to defend the book, which is obviously harder.

There is the debate on whether the book should be banned. On free speech issues generally, and censorship issues more specifically, I am about as staunchly in favour of freedom of expression as it is possible to be. I am not sure there is any text I would censor, in the way we use that word in New Zealand. Lots of expression is illegal, but far less is censored. I agree that death threats should be illegal, but they aren’t censored: it’s not illegal to possess a written death threat, in the sense that it is illegal to possess Postal 2: Share The Pain, A Guide to Growing Marijuana in Cool Climates, Critic Te Arohi 23 of 2005, or an image of child sexual exploitation.

But that’s not a discussion about the role of libraries, that's a discussion of the proper test Parliament should set for the Censor to apply when considering banning material.

And the debate about whether the purchase of this book was an appropriate use of ratepayers money is a different one too. The book had apparently been borrowed 10 times before the current uproar, what might be the standard metric appears to have been met by Auckland Libraries. But even a library system the size of the Auckland City Libraries cannot buy every book, so the proper use of its limited collections budget is a matter properly for debate. I don’t think anyone can seriously suggest a library could have an obligation to buy this book to make it available to the public.

But that too is a different debate, because for good or ill, Auckland Libraries has already bought this book, so we can’t talk about saving ratepayers money. Instead we are discussing what a library should do, when they find themselves in this situation. In short, what is the role of a library? Should a responsible custodian of a public information resource make this book available to the public, knowing what it contains?

I’ve long thought the role of libraries was to do just that, and am pleased, but not really surprised that they think so too. I’m sure this has not always been the case, but there has been discussion within the library community, and they are about as staunch on censorship as its possible to be.

In 2002 the Council of the Library and Information Association New Zealand Aotearoa adopted a Statement on Intellectual Freedom. I was going to quote from it, but I think I’m just going to quote it:

1. Society creates libraries as institutions to store and make available knowledge, information, and opinions and to facilitate the enjoyment of learning and creativity in every field. Every library has a responsibility to provide its users with the widest range of information materials possible, which are within the constraints of its budget, relevant to its users' requirements, and which represent the spectrum of points of view on the topic held in the community.

2. Librarians have a responsibility to ensure that the selection and availability of information materials is governed solely by professional considerations. In so doing, they should neither promote nor suppress opinions and beliefs expressed in the materials with which they deal. These professional considerations include the use of knowledge, skills, collection management experience, and collection development policies to make decisions on what is selected for the library collection.

3. No information resources should be excluded from libraries because of the opinions they express; nor because of who the author is; nor on the grounds of the political, social, moral or other views of their author.

4. No library materials should be censored, restricted, removed from libraries, or have access denied to them because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval or pressure. This includes access to web-based information resources.

5. Librarians should resist all attempts at censorship, except where that censorship is required by law. Librarians are free to request, and to lobby for, the repeal of laws, which compromise the principles set out in this statement.

While I’m particularly drawn to the last couple of paragraphs, I think the whole thing is pretty wonderful.

The same sentiment is contained in the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ Glasgow Declaration on Libraries, Information Services and Intellectual Freedom:

Libraries and information services contribute to the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom and help to safeguard democratic values and universal civil rights. Consequently, they are committed to offering their clients access to relevant resources and services without restriction and to opposing any form of censorship.

Auckland Libraries incorporates these principles into their collections policy, and I think they're doing great work in meeting the standards they've set themselves. They don't see themselves as a censor, and are going to hold to that whatever the pressure: if you want censorship, go to the Office of Film and Literature Classification, not a library. These considerations form part of Auckland Libraries' Collection Development Policy, which incorporates both the LIANZA Statement on Intellectual Freedom and the LIANZA Statement on Access to Information.

The usual course of my blog posts is a correction, or a complaint, or some observation about how some law works, or doesn’t. Today, during National Library week*, I just thought I’d say thank you to Auckland Libraries. I think about freedom of expression a lot, and also about particular parts of it, lots about media freedom, about access to justice, and freedom from censorship, even occasionally about academic freedom, but I’ve never really thought about intellectual freedom, and now – because you’re doing such a great job upholding it – I will.

(*in America, maybe we should have one too!)