Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 35 Number 6. April 11, 1972
Getting Done — 'A Day for a Lay' Decision
'A Day for a Lay' Decision
If the "reasonable man" in the "Clapham Omnibus" were asked whether he believed that a blind lady labouring under the back breaking weight of a pair of somewhat bloody scales could perform the feats of a contortionist precariously balanced on the Holy Grail might he not be excused for avowing his incredulity in terms a little less than Christian? Indeed, why not. Afterall we are all tolerant people living in enlightened times which have shed at least a faltering light on the prejudices and oppresive misconceptions of a somewhat less fortunate age. But if the image evokes incredulity you've got him floored when you triumphantly reveal that the tales a fact and what's more, it was all done to safeguard none other than himself from a fate a thousand times more ghoulish than being swallowed up by the glutinous groin of Beelzebub.
So as you walk away from the "man on the Clapham Omnibus" who is always aware of the "natural consequences of his actions", blessed as he is with hindsight, you suddenly realise that you've irretrievably confused another soul. Maybe only an analyst can say what possessed the court when it farted foul on 'A Day for a Lay".
The "long and the short of it all" is that in future the Criminal Record Book will diclose for those who "can show sufficient interest", of course, that D.J. Sullivan, Stipendiary Magistrate, threw the book at the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association Incorporated.
The Students' Association was charged with offences under s.21 (1) (b) and s.22 (1) (G) of the Indecent Publications Act 1963, s.21 (1) (b) provides that: "Every person commits an offence against this Act who., prints an indecent document."
This section bears the label "Offences of Strict Liability' This is a sneaky legal trick. It means that the Blue Meanies can get you even if you can prove you had no earthly reason to believe the document was indecent.
s.22 (1) (G) provides that:
"Every person commits an offence against this Act who., does any act mentioned in subsection (1) of section 21 of this Act knowing or having reasonable cause to suspect that the document is indecent.
This time a token deference to one's cerebal capacity but a somewhat ironic recognition because it means you can get zapped for $400 if you're just you, or $1,000 if you're incorporated (as opposed to corpulent), compared with a flat rate of $200 if they bust you under s 21 (1)(b).
The charge was heard in the magistrates court which was entrusted with the determination of not only guilt but also indecency. The latter mandate may strike some as a little peculiar in view of the existence of a comparatively rare Indecent Publications Tribunal which "the fathers of state" fashioned at our expense primarily to remove this sort of question of indecency from the crusty paws of the bastions of justice which unfortunately persist in measuring new lengths with old tools. Unfortunately there is a reason. The legislature in its ineffable wisdom did not give the Tribunal jurisdiction over periodicals, newspapers etc, published at intervals of less than one month. The legislature 'moves in mysterious ways' or simply fears that certain daily shit-sheets might be declared indecent as an affront to public intelligence.
However there is somewhat hollow solace in the fact that the court opined that it was incumbent upon it to apply the same standards of the Tribunal.
In order to determine the question of whether or not the poem, attributed to W.H. Auden, Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1956 - 1961, was indecent the court had to consider whether the piece was "describing, depicting, expressing or otherwise dealing with matters of sex... in a manner injurious to the public good." Its deliberations were to be assisted by noting the dominant effect of the poem as a whole; its literary or artistic merit; its honesty of intent; its extent of circulation and availability; its capacity for corruption weighed up against its social importance; and finally other factors believed relevant.
After musing long and hard the court, intrepid custodian of the public mind and the public bed spake through its oracle. "I am of the view that the poem gives undue prominence to sexual acts by persons of a deviant life style in a vulgar and coarse manner. The poem has no literary merit and would have no appeal except to the prurient minded. It has an evil influence and would be injurious to the public good."
Alas poor Auden, or Anon, who-so-ever the writer may be; even literary merit has lost its head. "Off with his head I Off with his head! So the poem is porn, filthy corrosive porn; to be hidden from saintly peepers of all that's clean and pure in Godzone.
But there was one more card to make the flush. It is a defence to charges under both s 21 (1) and s 22 (1) to prove that "the act of the defendent had no immoral or mischievous tendency." Predictably the court was not fooled by the angelic front of that crafty Rasputin of the Student Empire, Graeme "Bad Finger" Collins. Mischief and immorality are his middle names.
And so the last nail thudded into the steaming, suppurating coffin of drying kiwi turds and the student body puked.