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Posts Tagged ‘Defamation Act 2009’

Life of Brian & the Defamation Act

April 4, 2010 1 comment

Today at 4:30pm the Rio Cinema in Hackney, East London will show the classic Monty Python satire, The Life of Brian. Released in 1979, The Life of Brian is enjoying its thirtieth Easter. The well from which a thousand popular culture references can be drawn, the film was banned in Ireland for eight years (from its release in 1979 until 1987). An old family anecdote has my uncle sneaking a copy of it into the house without my grandmother’s knowledge – the same grandmother asked to borrow the DVD last year to see, at long last, what all the fuss was about. Twenty-three years after the lifting of the ban on Brian it might now fall foul of the Defamation Act 2009 on grounds of criminal blasphemy (see previous posts here and here). Section 36 of the Act makes it an offence to intentionally publish or utter “matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion”. It’s worth wondering if the Life of Brian still has the ability to cause outrage in modern Ireland, but if it did, then a cinema screening it might be caught by the section. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions may enjoy his day off: my quick search of internet listings found no Irish cinema showing the film today. Anyone that may be screening the movie can take comfort that it is a defence to “prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates”. After thirty years, the Pythons’ reasonableness is surely beyond doubt. All of us here at HRinI hope you enjoy your Bank Holiday weekend – whatever you’re celebrating.

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The Offence of Blasphemy and Constitutional Change

January 3, 2010 10 comments

On New Year’s Day the Defamation Act 2009 came into force, including the controversial s. 36 provision relating to the offence of blasphemy. This has been greeted with much publicity and attention in the international media and by an attempt on www.blasphemy.ie to intentionally contravene the provision. Indeed, today’s Sunday Times reports that the founder of Atheist Ireland, Michael Nugent, intends to send a copy of the 25 allegedly blasphemous quotes published on the site in order to try to provoke prosecution. As reported yesterday, however, my view is that this is unlikely to ‘succeed’. Quite apart from the debates around the appropriateness of such a law in a democratic society, it is important to note that the offence has been constructed in such a tight manner that, it seems to be, to be extremely difficult to commit the offence—either intentionally or accidentally. Indeed, the attempt on www.blasphemy.ie would tend to further back up this view. Read more…

Blasphemy, Sedition and the Defamation Act 2009

September 11, 2009 5 comments

lordlesterJuly 2009 produced a strange legislative symmetry in the Oireachtas and the UK Parliament. At the same time both legislatures found themselves debating the abolition of the offence of sedition, a common law offence which was already all but moribund at the time of Ireland’s independence. In his excitement at the prospect of the proposed abolition of sedition in the United Kingdom in the Coroners and Justice Bill currently before Parliament, Lord Lester of Herne Hill (left) cast a baleful eye across the Irish Sea at the ‘hilariously ironic’ events in the Oireachtas. For, just as the United Kingdom finally moves to abolish the offence of sedition, a mere 30 years after a UK Law Commission Working Paper advised it to do so, Ireland seems unable to extirpate this offence from its Constitution.

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