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Protest speech

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Crashing and burning

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Valerie Morse has lost her appeal to the Court of Appeal over her conviction for flag-burning at the Anzac Day Dawn Service. (For some reason, this wasn’t regarded as a “decision of public interest”, but it’s posted here). The judges all wrote separate judgments. Justice Arnold and the President of the Court of Appeal, William […]

Wrong turn by bus campaigners

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

You know what appals me most about the save-Manners-mall-from-buses campaign’s decision to hire students to front up for a protest march? It’s not the sheer stupidity of the tactic, which was surely always likely to bite them in the bum. It’s not that they’ve completely undone their own cause, illustrating how little support they can […]

Sparking debate

Monday, August 10th, 2009

I’ll be in the Court of Appeal with Tony Shaw tomorrow trying to make the world safe for flag-burners. Specifically: Valerie Morse, who lit a flag over the road from the Anzac Day dawn service at Wellington’s Cenotaph in 2007 to protest our militaristic foreign policy. She’s been convicted of offensive behaviour. Is this a […]


Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Here’s some free advice to any busker accused of falling foul of Auckland City Council’s extraordinary new policy on street theatre requiring buskers to have a sufficient repertoire of songs to last out their performance (maximum playing time: one hour) without repetition: 1. thank the authorised officer kindly, 2. apologise for the breach of the […]

It’s censorship, John, but not as we know it

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Poor John Boscowan. He’s been censored. I know this, because he’s got “censored” written across his full-page Sunday Star-Times ad opposing the Electoral Finance Act. Yes, apart from being one of the few people in the country able to afford to express his views in 850 words in a full-page ad in one of the […]

Keeping abreast of legal issues

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Dean Knight and I have been debating one of the finer points of the Bill of Rights Act. We’ve been talking about how it might apply to the proposed boobs-on-bikes parade. (I gather an injunction application is being argued as I type). The question relates to Bob McCoskrie’s [corrected spelling courtesy of Robyn: see comments] claim that the […]

Auckland Council boob-oo?

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Can the new Auckland Council bylaw requiring permits for (among other things) “any organised temporary activity including an organised gathering, parade, protest…” on public streets possibly be lawful?  Administrative law expert Dean Knight doesn’t think so. His terrific analysis concludes: I am very confident in saying that, to the extent that the bylaw requires citizens […]

A burning issue

Friday, July 25th, 2008

I’m afraid my tirade about the ridiculousness of Valerie Morse’s conviction for burning a flag didn’t do any good. She lost her appeal to the High Court. Morse burned a flag at last year’s Anzac Day dawn parade at the Cenotaph in Wellington. She was gathered with other protestors in the university grounds over the road. She burned […]

Get over it!

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Some people think flag-burning is offensive. Fine.  Some argue that it’s not speech. Not so fine. One of them, somewhat extraordinarily, is Stephen Franks: The effect of flag-burning derives solely from its power to shock and offend. It is not speech; it is not expression. It is the suppression and destruction of others’ expression. As […]

Another backward step for the Bill of Rights

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

The best measure of a country’s commitment to free speech is its willingness to protect speech it doesn’t like. At the very least, a respect for free speech involves ensuring that any restrictions are clearly justifiable. That’s how our Bill of Rights works. The Supreme Court passed this test in R v Brooker, using the […]

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