Court officials

Courts may refer publications for classification in any civil or criminal proceedings.

Section 29 of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 (Classification Act) states that where a question arises whether any publication could potentially be objectionable or restricted, the court should refer the question to the Classification Office. There is no fee for submitting a publication under section 29.

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How to submit a publication for classification

To refer a publication, the submitting court official must send a copy of the publication/s to the Classification Office accompanied by the following:

A cover letter

The cover letter should:

  • State that the submission is made under section 29 of the Classification Act.
  • Provide the name and address of the defendant and their legal representative. Under section 20(2), the defendant has a right to make written submissions to the Classification Office with regards to the classification of the publication.
  • Indicate whether name suppression is in force and, if possible, briefly describe the relevant conditions or dates.
  • Indicate whether the next court date has been set. We do our best to prioritise submissions, but we will inform submitters if the date may need to be changed.

A court order

The court order should:

  • Be signed by a court judge or registrar referring the publication/s to the Classification Office under section 29(1) of the Classification Act.
  • Identify the referring court and the civil or criminal proceeding (including the parties involved and a CRN number where possible).
  • State that the court determines that a question arises whether the publication/s is objectionable, or objectionable except in particular circumstances.
  • Identify the publication/s being referred for classification.

If more than one publication is being submitted, a schedule that accurately lists the names of the publications accompanied by a brief description of the publications and any other relevant information should be included. A sample schedule can be downloaded here.

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How to title publications

When giving publications titles, officials should:

  • Avoid giving publications generic titles such as “Image 1”. We have numerous historic publications with similar titles in the system, making it difficult to differentiate them.
  • Not include the name of the defendant, owner or the subject in the title.
  • Use the filename digital publications were saved with, even if this a long sequence of letters and numbers.
  • Use text that appears to be a title within the publication (if there is one), or include it as an alternative title in the case of a digital publication that has a filename.
  • Reflect the same capital and lower case conventions as those that appear on the publication (for example LL20i3Ep.jpg).

How to send publications

Publications are almost always submitted to the Classification Office in a digital format. A direct copy of the original publication should be submitted. Screenshots or a photo of the publication on a phone or computer screen should not be submitted.

Publications may be submitted on an encrypted or password-protected disc or USB. These can be couriered or hand delivered to our office in Wellington. Passwords and instructions for decrypting folders and files should be emailed separately to

Physical or hard copies of publications can also be securely couriered or hand delivered to our office. Submitters wanting to use a different method can contact us.

Image and video files should be in common digital formats that can be easily be accessed (such as JPG, PNG or PDF for images and MPEG, MOV, AVI or WMV for videos), though we will endeavour to examine publications in whatever formats are available. Text files should ideally be sent as PDFs.

Officials should retain the original or a copy of the publication in their possession. If counsel for the owner contact us to view the publication (in order to make a written submission on the classification), we will direct them to the submitter.

We will make a copy of the publication for our records and return discs and USBs once the publication has been classified.

Written submissions from interested parties

The Classification Office will notify parties to the proceedings before the courts of their right to make a written submission on the classification of the publication.

The parties will be given 10-14 working days to respond and the classification process cannot be completed until the submission date has lapsed. Any party can request an extension to the submission timeframe if there are valid reasons.

Will I be able to see submissions from other parties?

The Classification Office circulates submissions to other interested parties and offers them the opportunity to make further written submissions in response. A summary of any submissions that have been taken into consideration will be included in the final written decision.

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


The Classification Act allows the Classification Office to consult with other parties or organisations regarding issues that a publication has raised, especially if they are of significant public interest. Consultations are likely to lengthen the processing time, and we will advise court officials if that is going to be the case.

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How long it takes to reach a decision

The speed with which a decision is reached depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • The number of publications submitted.
  • The complexity of the publications.
  • Any extensions granted for written submissions.
  • The need for consultation.
  • Our workload.

It can take up to three months or more to classify a publication depending on the factors listed above. We do our best to prioritise submissions from proceedings with set court dates or other timeframes.

Report of findings

At the end of the classification process, the Classification Office will send a written report of its findings (under section 30 of the Classification Act) to the court and the parties to the proceedings. It details the findings of the Classification Office's examination of the publication under sections 3, 3A and 3B of the Classification Act.

Once the report has been sent, the decision is published in the NZ Register of Classification Decisions. The register page includes the classification and a brief summary of reasons for the decision.

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Reviews and reconsiderations

Classification Office decisions

Publications classified by the Classification Office may be reviewed by the Film and Literature Board of Review.

Once a classification has been entered into the NZ Register of Classification Decisions, anyone can apply for a review by the Film and Literature Board of Review. Interested parties have an automatic right of review.

The application period is limited to 30 working days from the date on which the decision was registered.

For more information, see 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 sections 41(3) or 47(2)(c) of the Classification Act.
  • The owner, maker, publisher, or authorised distributor of the publication in respect of which the determination was made.

Request by a person charged with an offence

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 (under section 41(2) of the Classification Act) to the Classification Office for reconsideration, or to the Film and Literature Board of Review where it is a decision of the Board.

Reconsiderations after three years

Once three or more years have elapsed, anyone with the leave of the Chief Censor can seek a reconsideration (under section 42 of the Classification Act) of a Classification Office decision.

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