skip to main content

Information for New Zealand court officials

As part of court proceedings, officials from New Zealand courts may submit publications to the Classification Office to determine if they are objectionable. This page includes:

Courts may refer publications for classification

The Classification Act says that courts may refer publications for classification.

Section 29 of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 (the Classification Act) is titled 'Referral of publications by courts'. It says that where a question arises as to whether a publication is objectionable or objectionable unless its availability is restricted, the court should refer the question to the Classification Office. The Classification Office has exclusive jurisdiction to determine the question. The Classification Office applies sections 3, 3A and 3B of the Classification Act to reach its determination.

Please note that if a defendant admits that a publication is objectionable (or objectionable unless its availability is restricted) then the court may accept that admission and dispense with reference to the Classification Office.

Useful links

How to submit a publication for classification

A copy of the publication/s is sent to the Classification Office accompanied by the following:

Court order

A court order signed by a District Court judge or registrar referring the publication/s to the Classification Office under section 29(1) of the Classification Act.

The court order:

  • Identifies the referring court
  • Identifies the civil or criminal proceeding (normally the parties involved and a CRN number)
  • Identifies the publication or publications being referred for classification
  • States that the court determines that a question arises whether the publication/s is objectionable, or objectionable except in particular circumstances

Cover letter

A cover letter stating that the submission is made under section 29 of the Classification Act.

In the cover letter it is helpful to provide the name and address of the defendant's legal representative because under section 20(2) of the Classification Act '...every person who is a party to the proceeding in respect of which that referral is made shall have the right to make written submissions to the Classification Office in respect of the classification of that publication.'

If there are a large number of publications, please submit a representative sample. For example, if there are a number of images depicting something similar or identical, then submit one of them.

Schedule for multi-publication applications

If more than one publication is to be classified, include a schedule accurately naming the publications, and ensure that:

  • Any titles reflect the same capital and lower case conventions as those that appear on the publications (for example LL20i3Ep.jpg)
  • File extensions are accurately recorded, e.g. .mpeg or .jpeg or .jpg

Note that there is no official submission form and no fee for submissions by the courts.

Please contact us if you have any questions.

Useful links

Written submissions

The Classification Office will seek written submissions from parties to court proceedings.

The Classification Office will notify parties to the proceedings before the courts of their right to make a written submission about the classification of the publication. The parties will be given 14 working days to respond. Time extensions can be sought by contacting the Classification Office.

Note that the Classification Office does not hold hearings or ask people to appear before it to make submissions in person.

Useful links

Example page of our Plain English Guide
Example page of our Plain English Guide to the Offence Provisions

Report of Findings

At the end of the classification process, the Classification Office sends a Report of Findings to the applicant from the court, and to the parties to the proceedings. Requests for copies of reports of findings should be directed to the relevant court.

A classification register page is published with a brief summary of reasons for the decision.

Classification register page
An example of a classification register page


Classification Office decisions

Classification Office decisions may be appealed to the Film and Literature Board of Review.

Once the classification for a court-referred publication has been entered into the public register of classification decisions, 'any party to the proceeding in respect of which that referral was made' and 'in all cases, the owner, maker, publisher, or authorised distributor of the publication' (section 47(2)(c)-(d)) may seek a review of the Classification Office decision by the Film and Literature Board of Review.

Getting a classification decision reviewed

Board of Review decisions

Board of Review decisions may be appealed to the High Court on a question of law.

Decisions of the Film and Literature Board of Review can be appealed to the High Court if anyone listed below believes the decision was erroneous in a point of law:

  • The person who sought the review by the Board
  • Any party to the proceeding in respect of a referral under section 41(3) or paragraph (c) of section 47(2)
  • The owner, maker, publisher, or authorised distributor of the publication in respect of which the determination was made.

Useful links


A person charged with an offence can request that a classification decision be reconsidered after one year.

Classification Office or Board of Review decisions are regarded as conclusive evidence. However once a year or more has elapsed, the court, at the request of a person charged with an offence under the Classification Act, can refer a decision to the Classification Office for reconsideration, or to the Film and Literature Board of Review where it is a decision of the Board's.

What the Classification Act says about seeking a reconsideration through the court

Note that with the leave of the Chief Censor, anyone can seek a reconsideration of a classification decision once three or more years have elapsed.

Useful links