Academic freedom brought to book

March 6, 1998

A court battle over academic freedom is expected to follow the seizure of a book from a university library that has been deemed obscene by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

University of Central England vice-chancellor Peter Knight this week faced court action as he promised to defy moves by police to have the book destroyed.

"Any attempt to restrict the academic curriculum and the associated freedom of thought by seeking to destroy this book must and will be resisted," he said.

Police have confirmed that resistance will lead to court action.

The book, Mapplethorpe, a discussion of the work of the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, was seized after a student sent his own photographs of prints in the book to be developed at a local chemist.

The chemist sent the images to West Midlands police, who seized the book in a raid on the student's flat. The police have been advised by the Director of Public Prosecutions that the book contravenes Section 2 of the Obscene Publications Act, and was "likely to deprave and corrupt".

A spokesman for West Midlands police confirmed that they "are in discussions with the university about the destruction of the book". He said that if the university resisted the move, the matter "will go before the courts and it will be for the courts to decide."

The police also confirmed that the police were "in discussions" with the publishers, Random House, "about the issues raised". Susan Sandon, a director at Random House, said that the publishers had no plans to withdraw the book, which has sold 5,500 copies since it was published in 1992.

Dr Knight said: "The publication is viewed as a serious, highquality work of considerable artistic merit. The university deplores the allegation that the publication is obscene."

Dr Knight is taking legal advice.

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