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Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 6. Tuesday, June 4, 1963

Civil Liberties Council Keeps Watch

Civil Liberties Council Keeps Watch

"I am concerned to see that books with a serious purpose and with artistic or literary merit are allowed into the country free of censorship," Mr. W. J. Scott told Salient recently.

Mr. Scott is probably known to most students as the Principal of the Training College, but he has been Chairman of the National Council for Civil Liberties since its inception in 1952. He is also a regular contributor to the NZBC's programme, "Looking at Ourselves."

"I do not argue the case for total abolition of censorship.:" Mr. Scott said in answer to a question.

"Some form of censorship is necessary, because there are always people who will exploit the susceptible for money, particularly those with susceptible tastes."

Commenting on the "Lolita" case, he said that the Council for Civil Liberties forced the case before the Courts (with the approval of the Minister of Customs) in order to test the 1954 amendments to the Indecent Publications Act. Until then, no one could be sure what they meant.

The two sections untested included a new definition of indecency, which was based on the idea of "undue emphasis on sex or horror or crime." They also provided for the banning of a book on the grounds that any class or age group which might obtain a copy of a book could be corrupted by it.

"The 1954 additions certainly make the Act more rigorous."

Mr. Scott told Salient that a new Bill had been prepared, and was introduced in the House last session. He considered that it might lead to a much more satisfactory state of affairs, though much would depend on how it was interpreted.

It is proposed that future cases should be argued before a panel consisting of a judge as chairman, and four others two of whom would be chosen for their knowledge of literature. The new definition of indecency would permit a book to enter the country if the tribunal thought it was to the public good. However, it still covered the possibility of corruption of those whose minds were open to corruption. Anyone who was permitted to import a book for its medical value, and then sold it to adolescents would still be liable to prosecution.

Appeal against the decisions of the Tribunal would be made before the Court of Appeal, which could rule that their decision was "manifestly wrong." It is not clear to Mr. Scott just what this means.

He was not very happy, he said, that the new Bill should take the decisions entirely away from a jury. Otherwise he had little argument with it. One advantage was that any book which had been rejected could be re-submitted for consideration. Mr. Scott indicated that the NCCL would probably do this with "Lolita" if the Bill becomes law.—D.W.