Christchurch terrorist sentencing

Justice amid trauma for the survivors

5 September 2020

Sentencing Remarks

The question that has arisen for me is how can a free and democratic society adequately respond to a crime of such exceptional seriousness – that takes the lives of innocent men, women and children on such a wholesale scale with such animus, and with such malice and callous indifference? [182]

I consider you to be a highly dangerous criminal who demonstrably has no regard for human life and who represents a very high risk of harm to others. [176]

You’re not only a murderer, but a terrorist … brutal and beyond callous – your actions were inhuman.

I have concluded there is no minimum term of imprisonment available to me that would not otherwise equate to a whole-of-life sentence. [181]

Your crimes are so wicked that even if you are detained until you die, it would not exhaust the requirements of punishment and denunciation. [184] Justice Cameron Mander, 27 August 2020

Following the shocking 15 March 2019 terrorist attack in Christchurch that killed 51 people [i] – men women and children worshipping at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques – we wrote an editorial for EPAT, available here in PESA Agora. Now it is timely to reflect on the process of justice in New Zealand, on the High Court sentencing, and to acknowledge the ongoing traumatic impacts on so many survivors who were finally given a voice in the Court. This column draws on the 44-page High Court of New Zealand Sentencing Remarks by Justice Cameron Mander of 27 August 2020 (CRI-2019-009-2468 [2020] NZHC 2192). Since many readers will be unfamiliar with High Court proceedings, I footnote the format with headings and sub-headings [ii]. I also consulted with reports from multiple media accounts from around the world that detailed and commented on as much of the proceedings as possible [iii]. Because the terrorist was an avowed white supremacist who had produced a now banned manifesto and livestream video of his acts of terrorism (see note 113 [iv]), Justice Mander imposed extraordinary restrictions on the media, noting that the Terrorism Suppression Act meant that ‘The Court has a duty … to ensure it is not used as a platform … [and] to prevent it being used as a vehicle for further harm,’ so live updates were banned, and the media were told what was permissible to report after each court session, being warned that any breaches would likely to result in contempt of court charges.

On 27 August 2020, after a four-day sentencing hearing [v], Justice Cameron Mander sentenced the Australian mass-murdering terrorist, Brenton Harrison Tarrant (29), from Grafton, a small town in New South Wales, to jail for the rest of his natural life, without parole, saying that there was no minimum period of imprisonment that could sufficiently atone for this crime. New Zealand has no death penalty, so the sentence was as harsh as possible under the law, and the first such sentence ever handed down here. Justice Mander makes several points: … ‘your homicidal actions constituted an act of terrorism and that your victims were targeted predominantly because of their religion but also their ethnicity, their race and their colour’ [125].

Likewise that this is a hate crime:

New Zealand rightly places great value on its diverse and culturally rich community. It recognises the contributions made by people of many racial and ethnic backgrounds and of varied faiths and cultures. Extremist beliefs and ideologies that seek to promote violence and hate are anathema to the values of acceptance, tolerance and mutual respect upon which our inclusive society is based and which this country strives to maintain. Where warped and malignant ideology manifests itself in such violence and causes such appalling harm, it is incumbent on the Court to respond in a way that decisively rejects such vicious malevolence. [156]

Your crimes were met by an unprecedented public outpouring of love and support for the people you targeted and the wider Muslim community. Your design was to divide, but the public’s response was to stand with the people of their community – with their fellow New Zealanders – to demonstrate their unqualified repudiation of your hateful agenda. You failed, but the individual and personal cost of the lives lost and the grievous wounds inflicted are immense. [157]

Earlier this year, most people were surprised at the offender’s change to a guilty plea (51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder, and a charge of committing a terrorist act) on 26 March 2020 just before the trial was due to start. Mercifully for the survivors, it meant that amid the strict New Zealand Level 4 Covid-19 lockdown, they did not also have to cope with a prolonged trial. Nor was he able to grandstand and promote his murderous, hate-filled far-right white supremacist views. It was similarly surprising that he opted to represent himself and not to speak at his sentencing; instead, he instructed the Crown-appointed Counsel, Pip Hall QC, not to oppose the indefinite sentence. Once again, there would be no chance to promote his agenda as set out in his now prohibited manifesto and video. But the confession of guilt and change of plea did not mean remorse and at no stage did Tarrant express sorrow or ask for forgiveness, with Justice Mander saying:

 […] To my observation, however, you remain entirely self-absorbed. You have offered no apology or public acknowledgement of the harm you have caused. There is little to indicate that your pleas denote any deeply-held sense of remorse for your victims or that you are particularly distressed at having caused such terrible grief. [162]

Your focus appears to be on yourself and the position you find yourself in. While I accept you have forsaken the opportunity to use this proceeding as a platform and appear now to accept that what you did was wrong, you appear neither contrite nor ashamed. Your regret appears centred on the waste of your own life in the realisation that your crimes were irrational and unjustifiable, rather than for the innocent lives that you have taken. [163]

Details of the crimes are set out in the The Facts and in The Offending sections of the Sentencing Remarks. Despite many details already being public, it nevertheless makes for harrowing, deeply upsetting reading, showing premeditation by his long and meticulous planning, purchasing equipment (‘in excess of 7,000 rounds of ammunition … modified the military-style semi-automatic rifles in order to improve their rate of fire’), and practised their use, including the use of a drone in January 2019 to record entry and exit points, analysing the Al Noor Mosque layouts, his extreme and violent intentions ‘to kill as many people at each mosque as efficiently and as systematically as [he] could,’ and his regret at not killing more people. Justice Mander commented on his premeditation:

The Facts detail the horrific sequence:

[3] You had with you some six firearms, including semi-automatic shotguns and two military-style semi-automatic rifles, and a large amount of ammunition. You carried four incendiary devices that you intended to use to burn down the mosques. You wore military-style clothing and a bulletproof vest that contained at least seven magazines and a knife. On your helmet, you mounted a strobe light to confuse your victims and a camera to provide a livestream to an online audience.

[4] After arriving in Christchurch and while in the vicinity of the Al Noor Mosque you sent a document, described as your ‘manifesto,’ to an extremist website. You sent emails containing threats to attack the Christchurch mosques to the government and to various national and international media organisations, to which you also attached your manifesto. These messages were sent only minutes before your attack and provided no opportunity to the authorities to intervene.

[12] You moved closer to each now piled group of people lying deceased, wounded or feigning death on each side of the main prayer room. Worshippers, who were either crying out for help or who appeared to be alive, were systematically shot in the head. One of those was a three-year-old child, Mucaad Ibrahim. He was clinging to his father’s leg and you murdered him with two aimed shots.

[13] At this point, you made your way out of the Mosque, checking prone victims as you went to ensure they were dead. Outside you shot at people attempting to flee. You shot Mohammad Faruk in the back, killing him. Wasseim Daragmih and his four-year-old daughter received life-threatening wounds. You fired in the opposite direction, hitting Sazada Akhter in the spine. She will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

[20] When you got to Linwood, you approached the Mosque on foot down a long driveway, armed with yet another firearm. You saw three people in and around a car. You shot Ghulam Hussain in the head, killing him, before firing at and wounding Muhammad Raza who had got out of the other side of the vehicle. You shot another occupant of the car, Karam Bibi, before advancing up the driveway, where you saw Mr Raza attempting to find cover behind a fence. He attempted to retreat from you. Despite his pleas to spare him, you murdered him. A wounded Ms Bibi sought to hide in front of the vehicle. You walked to within metres of her as she lay prone with her head buried in her hands, stood over her, and killed her.

[21] You then advanced towards the Mosque. As you passed a window, you saw the silhouette of Mohammed Khan. You murdered him with a single shot to the head. With your weapon now empty, you ran down the driveway back to your vehicle. As you reached the car, Abdul Aziz Wahabazadah, who had courageously followed you down the driveway, challenged you. You retrieved another semi-automatic rifle from your vehicle and fired at him. He dived between some parked cars, before you walked back up the driveway to the main entrance to the Mosque.

[22] There were several people standing inside the entranceway and further into the building at whom you repeatedly fired. You killed Musa Patel. Walking further into the Mosque, you shot and killed Linda Armstrong. People were huddled in corners of the room or trying to escape as you fired your weapon, killing Mohamad Mohamedhosen. You continued to fire the semi-automatic rifle until it ran out of ammunition, at which point you dropped it and ran back to your vehicle.

[23] Mr Wahabazadah chased you down the driveway, yelling at you. You removed the bayonet from your vest but retreated in the face of his advance. As you began driving away, Mr Wahabazadah got close enough to throw one of your discarded weapons at your vehicle.

[24] After leaving the Linwood Mosque, your intention was to drive to Ashburton to attack another mosque, but your vehicle was rammed off the road by a police car, and you were apprehended by two armed police officers. You were anxious not to be shot and offered no resistance.

[25] When interviewed by police, you told them that you had gone to both mosques with the intention of killing as many people as you could. You regretted not having the opportunity to burn the mosques down by using the incendiary devices, and that you had not been able to shoot more people.

[26] You confirmed to police the ideological motivation for your self-described ‘terror attacks,’ which was reflected in the document you distributed immediately before committing mass murder. [vi] [the now-banned ‘Manifesto’]

The terrorist attack not only massacred and seriously injured people, it left behind 34 spouses, 92 children, and more than 100 siblings, all scarred and suffering. The sentencing hearing was highly significant for the victims and their families because it was the first time they heard the massacre detailed in open Court and when many had been finally able to look him in the eye, to make their statements – testimony or narratives of survivors. While the statements read in Court expressed a huge range of emotion, trauma, grief, pain, suffering, anger, often with tears, with some apparently going off script, we can only hope it had a cathartic and healing effect in what will be a long process as the victims’ names were announced and their families spoke [vii].

The Victim Impact Statements provide voice, testimony, physical, emotional and financial impacts at the time and subsequently. Initially, there were to be 66 victim impact statements, but, in the end, 91 statements were presented with Justice Cameron Mander reporting ‘with much sadness,’ reading over 200 [viii] – justice not only being done but seeing to be done, as he expressed disgust and outrage at the offender but compassion for the victims. Worldwide media subsequently provided moving testimonies from many victims [ix].

The Victim Impact Statements start with the murder victims at the Al Noor Mosque where some 190 people were worshipping and ‘Forty-four unarmed and defenceless people were murdered’ [28]. Victim Impact Statements 29-65, briefly detail the victims at the Al Noor Mosque. Without any disrespect or intent to not acknowledge all of the victims (readers are recommended to read the full Sentencing Remarks), to illustrate the background of the victims and the stories or the survivors, only a few statements are presented verbatim here:

[29] Among them were Khaled Alhaj-Mustafa and his 16-year-old son, Hamza. You grievously wounded another son, who was just 13 years old. He has been left with wounds and a bullet in his leg that will always remind him of the terrible day you killed his father and brother. His mother has been left to look after him and a younger child. She tells me that she often cries alone at night. Mr Alhaj-Mustafa’s widow is scared thinking of her children’s future and how she will be able to take care of them. This shattered family must somehow cope with life without their loved ones.

[30] Syed Jahandad Ali was a software engineer and the father of three children, all under five years of age. His wife is fearful for their children and for their future without him. She must now raise and support her family by herself.

[31] Amjad Kasem Hamid was a respected and skilled physician. An expert in cardiac care, he was a dedicated doctor and a compassionate man. He was a husband and a father. His wife of 24 years and their two sons are deeply affected by his murder. Their loss is unbearable – the circumstances of his death unbelievable.

[32] Ata Mohammad Ata Elayyan was a caring son and a devoted husband and father. He loved his family, neighbours and colleagues. He loved all people, and was loved by them. He represented New Zealand in his chosen sport of futsal and was a leader in his field of information technology. He was a gifted man. His family must now somehow go on and live without him. His wife, who came to this country to share her life with him, must now live with the indescribable pain of his loss and raise their young daughter without him. She described him as a ‘good New Zealander’ whose ‘legacy will live forever.’

[33] Ali Mah’d Abdullah Elmadani owned his own taxi after retiring as an engineer. He and his wife and children moved to this country more than 20 years ago. Mr Elmadani was ‘the pillar’ of the family. His death has left his wife and his teenage son distraught. The family is broken, and they are left struggling with daily life without him.

[34] Naeem Rashid was undertaking postgraduate study at Lincoln University and teaching at various business colleges after a career in international banking. Mr Rashid died defending his fellow worshippers and his 21-year-old son, Talha, who was also murdered that day. Mr Rashid was an honourable man. As his wife has told me, the brave way he and his son died was a reflection of his life. Talha had recently started his career as a civil engineer. He was, in his mother’s words, an amazing son and older brother to his younger siblings. Both were fine men – their loss will hurt forever.

[48] Lilik Abdul Hamid’s widow wakes in the night terrified and afraid for her future without her husband. She is alone, and her loneliness makes her depressed. Mr Hamid’s daughter lives in fear of strangers and has become timid and untrusting of people.

[52] Tariq Rashid Omar was a fine young man – a geologist and a footballer. His family spoke of him with eloquence and grace – a fitting reflection of their love for him. So much of what they said applies to all who fell. The loss of their special son, brother and grandson is intolerable. I cannot do justice to their words.

[53] Sayyad Ahmad Milne was a precious 14-year-old boy with his whole life before him. His murder has left a huge hole in his parents’ hearts. Despite his father’s resilience and forgiveness, they grieve for him deeply.

[54] Mucaad Aden Ibrahim was younger still – a three-year-old infant. His father described him as ‘the happiness of the household’ – a vibrant young boy who made friends with everyone he met. No family can recover from the murder of such a small child.

Justice Mander then notes that ‘[66] You murdered another seven people at the Linwood Islamic Centre. Notes 67-71 detail these. This is followed by notes 72–102 on the attempted murder victims, five of whom were seriously wounded (notes 104–107). He notes:

[109] People witnessed scenes that no one should have to experience. They must live with those memories and the terrible fear they suffered that day. The severe debilitating effects of this lasting trauma and post-traumatic stress have been profound – anxiety, survivor guilt, fear, grief and anger are common. Many must also endure insomnia and nightmares and a continual deep sense of sadness. Some have been devastated from what they went through, and their lives forever altered.

[110] The mosques were places of sanctuary. This country too, considered internationally to be one of the safest and most secure in the world, was also seen as a place of refuge and safety by many who you targeted. I have little doubt that you chose to come to this country to target New Zealand’s Muslim community for that very reason. As a result of your terrorism, you have caused people to question their safety in their own community.

[111] The violation of houses of worship – places of peace reserved for prayer, family and community – has caused worshippers to doubt their safety at those places and people have lost confidence. Those intended effects of your crime must not be allowed to stand. Your victims have shown extraordinary resilience, but I cannot ignore the damage you have done to the sense of security and wellbeing of members of the Muslim community, both in Christchurch and more widely throughout New Zealand as a whole.

‘A surging tsunami of pain and suffering,’ heads an account by Lana Hart, 31 August 2020, who was supporting a widowed friend, seated in one of the adjunct courtrooms watching the livestream with the victims and whanau. She movingly fleshes out the more dry, but necessarily brief official VIS as in the Sentencing Remarks:

Bleary-eyed from the account, we gathered in the halls of the courthouse at the morning break and tried to shake off the weight of those words with light chatter and coffee. But when the hearing resumed, it became clear the wave of suffering had only just begun. Maybe you’ve heard them, chronicled here and there and everywhere. New Zealand media has done a sensitive and multi-layered job of relaying the victim impact statements to the world. But many statements were shielded from media coverage due to the wishes or the age of the speakers. These quieter, understated speeches, some delivered by children, painted a rounder picture of the everyday suffering caused by the attacks. The physical pain endured by bullet fragments that will never be removed, the marriages left with gaping holes of loss and depression, the nights of sleeplessness, torment, insufferable anxiety or throbbing pain. Deep, relentless worry. The children who cannot possibly understand what has happened and parents who are forced to come up with explanations they themselves cannot comprehend. The woman who held her husband’s ‘warm thumb’ until it turned cold. The way, in search of her missing husband, a woman climbed over her friends’ bloody bodies. The 18 surgeries before yet another death. The adult daughter who misses how her beloved father walked down the hall, strong and sure. Victims facing a lifetime of lead poisoning. Injured men who struggle to cope with the fact that they are no longer strong and cannot support their families. The elderly woman, already widowed before the attacks, who lost her only son and has no idea who will support her overseas for her remaining years. [x]

As so many people have been left wondering – what ‘makes someone commit such heinous, callous inhuman acts? Who was this terrorist? What motivated him? Why Christchurch, not elsewhere? The Sentencing Remarks 112-123 described his Personal Background in what is something of an attempt to understand him and his motivation an unremarkable upbringing in a small town Australia, no criminal history and his travel in Europe related to his radical ideological views as were pointed out in our EPAT editorial in 2019. The development of his far-right, white supremacist views and deliberate planning are outlined by Justice Mander:

[114] You adopted an isolated lifestyle, living alone in rented accommodation. Your focus appears to have been on following far-right websites, acquiring high powered firearms – some of military specification, large amounts of ammunition of various calibres, and other military paraphernalia and equipment. You obtained a New Zealand firearms licence and practised the use of your guns at various rifle clubs. Apart from some further travel in December 2018, your sole objective was the planning and execution of your long-conceived plan to attack the Muslim community.

[115] You have no apparent mental disorders or psychiatric conditions, nor do you present with any clinically significant cognitive impairments. One of the psychiatrists who assessed you last year described you as proudly seeing yourself as a ‘white European ethno-nationalist’ who has an ‘air of superiority and grandiosity which may reflect narcissistic traits.’ However, there was insufficient information to make a formal diagnosis of any personality disorder. You are described as having held unusually racist beliefs since your late teens that have developed and intensified through your adult life.

At sentencing, Justice Mander put the victims’ needs foremost with three days for the Victim Impact Statements (VIS’s) able to be read as they wished, in their own words with no editing. Over this time, the Court heard heart-rending narratives of ongoing physical, emotional and financial struggles and trauma from shattered families whose lives have been ripped apart. In Court, understandably, reactions to the terrorist varied enormously expressing a wide range of emotions, and he was described by many as a monster and a coward who could never be forgiven[xi]. Yet, astoundingly, some say they have forgiven and been able to find peace, others are still angry and will never forgive. Youssef Abukwaik, brother of Osama Adnan Abukwaik, urged the judge to consider, in sentencing, the lives taken by the terrorist, and the permanent disabilities inflicted. ‘I’m not asking you to show no mercy, I’m asking for the same mercy he gave.’ Zekeriya Tuyan’s widow, Hamimah, called the terrorist an ignorant radical man, who tried to pick and choose his history to justify killing innocent people. ‘There’s no difference between you and ISIS.’ She said there should be no credit for a guilty plea, and the terrorist should be given no chance to live among peace-loving people again. None of the beautiful souls he murdered will get a second chance, she said. The harshest sentence would show the revulsion of the people of New Zealand, and the denunciation of murder in the name of an ‘evil, racist white-supremacist ideology.’ Some said that it had strengthened their Islamic faith and others noted that it had broken down barriers and united New Zealand behind ideals of tolerance and in support of its Muslim minority. Sara Qasem, mourning her father Abdelfattah, used the Japanese art of Kintsugi, fixing broken pottery with powdered gold, as a metaphor to explain how the attack had given the Muslim community a golden thread of love to become stronger, more beautiful and more united. The gunman was told, repeatedly, he faced greater justice in the next life, before Allah. John Milne, whose 14-year-old son Sayyad was killed, said: ‘I would love you to say sorry. Jesus died for you.’ The gunman was a man who, Esam Alzhqhoul reminded the Court, looked a 3-year-old child in the eye and killed him. ‘His skin is too soft for your bullets.’

Some would argue that justice and the sentencing might have enabled some degree of psychological closure, but the trauma for most survivors, their family and friends, is undoubtedly ongoing. Issues of racism, religious intolerance, fear of difference and of the Other remain for New Zealand as a multicultural settler society, as does the serious issue of addressing white supremacist movements. Such movements are not going away – they remain online and in the ‘Dark Net’ of which the terrorist was a part. He was no lone wolf. He acted in concert with the ideologies promoted by these dangerous sites, which impact far beyond New Zealand. Currently, a draft assessment by US Department for Homeland Security notes that ‘White supremacy is “most lethal threat” to the US.’

Healing for the victims and their families will be a lifetime project.

Kia Kaha – be strong

Acknowledgement: Names of people murdered (note some families prefer not to use the term ‘victim’ now, but it is a formal term in Court):

Haji-Daoud Nabi, Khaled Alhaj-Mustafa, Ali Elmadani, Muhammad Haziq Mohd-Tarmizi, Atta Elayyan, Husna Ahmed, Junaid Ismail, Mohamad Moosid Mohamedhosen, Hamza Mustafa, Mucaad Aden Ibrahim, Hussein Al-Umari, Zekeriya Tuyan, Lilik Abdul Hamid, Mohammed Imran Khan, Linda Armstrong, Sayyad Milne, Syed Jahandad Ali, Ahmed Gamal Abdel Ghany, Naeem Rashid, Tariq Rashid Omar, Matiullah Safi, Ashraf Ali, Farhaj Ahsan, Kamal Darwish, Muhammad Suhail Shahid, Abdelfattah Qasem, Musa Vali Suleman Patel, Ramiz Arifbhai Vora, Ansi Alibava, Ozair Kadir, Arifbhai Mohamedali Vohra, Ashraf El-Moursy Ragheb, Talha Naeem, Haroon Mahmood, Syed Areeb Ahmed, Maheboob Allarakha Khokhar, Hussein Moustafa, Amjad Hamid, Mounir Soliman, Zeshan Raza, Ashraf Ali, Ghulam Hussain, Karam Bibi, Abdukadir Elmi, Zakaria Bhuiya, Mohsin Al Harbi, Osama Adnan Abukwaik, Md Mojammel Hoq, Mohammed Omar Faruk, Muhammed Abdus Samad, Muse Nur Awale

Notes

[i] For faces and names of victims see: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12213358; https://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/christchurch-mosque-shootings-faces-fallen; https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/384912/christchurch-mosque-terror-attacks-the-victims; https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-shooting/113483037/51st-christchurch-terror-attack-victim-finally-namedhttps://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/zealand-mosque-attacks-victims-190316183339297.htmlhttps://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2019/mar/21/christchurch-shooting-remembering-the-victims; https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47593693

[ii] R v Tarrant – Sentencing Remarks of Mander, J., Hearing 24-27 August 2020. CRI-2019-009-2468 [2020] NZHC 2192. https://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/assets/cases/R-v-Tarrant-sentencing-remarks-20200827.pdf.

The format for Justice Mander’s Sentencing Remarks begins by listing the terrorist’s crimes. Then it proceeds with The Facts (2–26); Victim Impact Statements: Murder victims (27–71), Attempted Murder Victims (72–111; Personal Background [Offender] (112–123); Sentencing purposes (124–125); The starting points (126–129; Sentencing for murder and terrorism (130–132); Sentence of life imprisonment without parole (133–144); The Offending (145–158): Premeditation; The use of high-powered firearms; Mass killing; Brutal, cruel and callous violence; The vulnerability of victims at a place of worship; A terrorist act; A hate crime; Harm. This is followed by Factors Personal to the Offender, notes 159–175 on guilty pleas; absence of prior offending; prospects of rehabilitation; strict custodial conditions. The Sentencing Decision (176–186) is followed by the Sentence (187–189). Further subsections: Destruction of exhibitsHealth assessors’ reportsStrike warning, ending with note 193: ‘Stand down.’

[iii] For example and details see: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/sentencing-man-responsible-christchurch-terrorist-attacks-begins-todayhttps://www.odt.co.nz/star-news/star-christchurch/mosque-terrorist-given-life-without-parolehttps://amp.rnz.co.nz/article/1344ec6e-8f61-4896-b7c3-2bbca3615297https://amp.rnz.co.nz/article/4c646652-59ab-402c-9730-993237ea9faahttps://amp.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/27/how-do-i-console-their-aching-hearts-hamimah-tuyans-victim-impact-statement-in-full; https://www.newsroom.co.nz/judge-to-decide-terrorists-fatehttps://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/world-asia-53902158https://www.newsroom.co.nz/terrorist-asked-who-is-the-other?amp=1https://amp.smh.com.au/world/oceania/i-am-worried-for-my-son-s-soul-how-the-christchurch-massacre-changed-new-zealand-20200827-p55ptd.htmlhttps://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/424263/christchurch-mosque-attacks-sentencing-finally-offers-victims-a-chance-to-look-mass-killer-in-the-eyeshttps://www.wsj.com/articles/christchurch-gunman-who-killed-51-people-gets-life-imprisonment-11598494952https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/zealand-court-set-sentence-christchurch-mosque-shooter-200822151652463.html

[iv] [113] It appears that while travelling in Europe you developed deep-seated radical views regarding the migrant population of some Western countries and beliefs about the so-called ‘cultural displacement’ of Europeans in those countries. You began formulating ideas of taking violent action against people – people you described as ‘the invaders,’ and in particular those of the Muslim faith. You were attracted to and adopted the views of far-right white supremacists.

[v] With a new Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland and lockdown limitations, the Court was forced to scale back its initial plan to accommodate a large number of people. The main courtroom was limited to 230 people, hosting 35 victims and 10 journalists. The remaining victims, journalists and 12 members of the public will be seated in seven overflow courtrooms to observe the sentencing via livestream. The Government allowed ‘limited exemptions’ for 47 victims to travel to New Zealand to attend, supported in Court by victim advisors, police family liaison officers and Victim Support, with separate breakout, prayer and whānau rooms in Court. Other victims not in Court will watch the sentencing via livestream, which will be translated into eight languages to account for the range of affected cultures.

Journalists from 11 New Zealand outlets and 18 overseas outlets had to undergo a formal registration process to report on the sentencing. International journalists unable to travel because of Covid-19 border restrictions will have access to the livestream, provided they comply with strict court orders. There will be no live reporting of the sentencing and it’s expected there will be delays as reporting is only permitted after the midday break and at the end of the day. People can expect not to see any report republishing the livestream of the massacre or associated manifesto as both have been deemed objectionable by the Chief Censor. 24 August 2020. By Anneke Smith, RNZ https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/sentencing-man-responsible-christchurch-terrorist-attacks-begins-today

[vi] https://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/assets/cases/R-v-Tarrant-sentencing-remarks-20200827.pdf

[vii] See reports from Court attendees: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-shooting/122602820/a-surging-tsunami-of-pain-and-suffering?cid=app-iPhonehttps://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/122592814/thank-you-for-your-aroha?cid=app-iPhone

[viii] [27] I have read all the victim impact statements from well over 200 victims and listened with much sadness to those who have presented their statements in Court. In addition, I have received statements from the Muslim Association of Canterbury, the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand, the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, Cashmere High School and the Canterbury Interfaith Society, for which I am grateful. Mr Lafraie has presented a statement in Court that reflects the impact of your dreadful offending on the Muslim community.

[ix] The Christchurch testimonies: Survivors and the bereaved give their accounts of New Zealand’s worst terror attack: https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2020/sep/03/the-christchurch-testimonies-survivors-and-the-bereaved-give-their-accounts-of-new-zealands-worst-terror-attack?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

[x] Lana Hart, ‘A surging tsunami of pain and suffering,’ 31 August 2020. Stuffhttps://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-shooting/122602820/a-surging-tsunami-of-pain-and-suffering?

[xi] Here I have to rely on media reports, in particular from David Williams, Terrorist to learn if ‘life’ means life, Newsroom New Zealand, 26 August 2020, https://www.newsroom.co.nz/judge-to-decide-terrorists-fate.

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Full Citation Information:
Besley, T. (2020). Christchurch terrorist sentencing: Justice amid trauma for the survivors. PESA Agora. https://pesaagora.com/columns/christchurch-terrorist-sentencing-peace-amid-survivor-narratives/

Tina Besley

Tina Besley is a Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Education at Beijing Normal University, P.R. China. She is a Fellow of: the Royal Society of Arts; the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia, and the Association for Visual Pedagogies. She is PESA Past President and Founding President of the Association for Visual Pedagogies. Tina is Project Manager and Editor of PESA Agora,  and deputy editor of  Educational Philosophy and Theory.   A recent book is  Post-Truth, Fake News: Viral Modernity in Higher Education (2019).

Article Feature Image Acknowledgement: Illustration by Guy Body in NZ Herald, August 29 2020