'Archaic' blasphemous libel law repealed in Parliament

'Archaic' blasphemous libel law repealed in Parliament
Photo credit: Newshub Nation

The "archaic" law prohibiting the publication of material which may vilify or insult Christianity has been repealed in Parliament.

Until Tuesday, it was an offence in New Zealand to publish anything which may be considered blasphemous libel, meaning to condemn Christ or Christianity.

While no one could be prosecuted for the offence without the leave of the Attorney General, the crime came with a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

But on Tuesday the Government scrapped the law it labels as "archaic" with the passing of the Crimes Amendment Bill.

"The offence of blasphemous libel has not been prosecuted in New Zealand since 1922, and raises potential Bill of Rights Act concerns," said Justice Minister Andrew Little.

"This obsolete provision has no place in a modern society which protects freedom of expression."

Mr Little said laws should be relevant to modern society and the last time a blasphemous libel case was considered, in 1998, the Solicitor-General rejected it.

"The view was expressed that it would be inconsistent with the freedom of expression as protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act," said Mr Little.

The Crimes Amendment Bill also repealed a law which prevented people being charged with causing someone's death if they died more than one year and a day after the act.

"This rule was also a potential bar to prosecution in the CTV building collapse following the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes. While the change is not retrospective, it means that those who break the law in future will not be able to rely on this rule to escape prosecution," said Mr Little.