Saturday, July 24, 2004

A victory for freedom

The High Court has thrown out schoolteacher Paul Hopkinson's conviction for "dishonouring the New Zeland flag", finding that flag-burning is protected by the freedom of expression clause in the Bill of Rights Act. It was a lot of trouble to go to over a $600 fine, but it was worth it; we now have a clear and unequivocal precedent recognising and guarding freedom of expression in the strongest sense.

The law hasn't been overturned (we don't do that in New Zealand), but it has been effectively gutted, its language redefined upwards into oblivion. Those who disagree with the decision will no doubt cry "judicial activism", but it was more or less demanded by the Bill of Rights Act, which says that the only limits on the freedoms it recognises are those that can be "demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society" and requires that, whereever possible, all other legislation be interpreted in a manner consistent with that Act.

I've been following this story since the beginning, and I'm pleased to see it end in a victory for freedom. Suck that, Stephen Franks!