Christchurch High Court: Australian White Supremacists Sentenced to Life Imprisonment Without Parole 

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Moshiuzzaman
Moshiuzzaman holds a 2:1 LL.B degree from BPP University (UK). He is currently pursuing the CFA chartership and working as an independent legal researcher at the American Society of International Law (ASIL)

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Christchurch High Court sentences Brenton Tarrant to life imprisonment without parole after having found him guilty in 51 murder charges, 40 charges of attempted murder, and one charge of committing a terrorist act.

Background

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29, is an Australian former fitness coach who moved to New Zealand in 2017 intending to collect weapons to carry out mass shootings targeting the Muslim community of New Zealand. A trail of evidence and interviews with his relatives have revealed that Brenton had become radicalized while travelling to Europe. It is widely reported that he had met white extremists over the internet and routinely wrote hate speech directed towards Muslims and non-white immigrants. 

On 15th March 2019, Brenton carried out a series of attacks in two Christchurch based mosques to carry out a further attack. The attack took place during Friday prayers when Brenton began to fire inside the Al Noor Mosque, which lasted about 6 minutes. While shooting the attendees, Brenton was live-streaming the entire onslaught on his social media. From there, Brenton drove to Linwood Islamic Centre, which was located some 5 kilometres away from the Al Noor Mosque. After killing several worshippers, and injuring several others, he was getting ready to drive to another mosque, reportedly the Ashburton Mosque. On his way, he was arrested by the police. In total, he had killed 51 individuals while wounding 40 others. 

Christchurch High Court

Justice Cameron Mander sitting at the Christchurch High Court on the 27th of August sentenced Brenton Tarrant to life imprisonment without parole. This is the first time that such a sentence has been delivered by a court in New Zealand. Although there are many jurisdictions where an accused convicted of mass murder will generally be given a death penalty, New Zealand since 1961, has abolished capital punishment. As such, Brenton would only serve 17 years in prison. 

Justice Mander, regarding the sentence, stated that no finite term in prison would be sufficient for the crime he has committed. Initially, at the beginning of the trial, Brenton had pleaded not guilty. But soon after he fired his lawyers and asked for the court to allow him to be represented by himself. Although the court allowed the request, they had allotted a lawyer in his defence for a legal query. 

There were fears that if Brenton was allowed to self-represent, he may, in the course of his representation, incite further hate speech encouraging further attacks in the future. However, the judge before reading out his judgment made it clear that any inaccurate publication of the court’s decision by news media outlets would serve as a contempt of court. This ruling ensures no further attack takes place as a result of Brenton’s speech.

After over a year in the trial, with the pandemic situation still in phase, the decision is welcomed by New Zealand and the global community. Just after the attack, gun laws in New Zealand were immediately reformed and military-style semi-automatic guns were bought by the State. The inhuman ordeal took the life of 51 innocent individuals while leaving 40 others injured. But the event has brought greater communal within New Zealand, particularly the Muslim community at large. 


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