Christchurch hospital funding debacle

Nine to ten years after the Christchurch earthquakes things are looking dire for Christchurch and Canterbury health care.

Stuff: Staff shortage at $525 million dollar yet-to-open Christchurch hospital

A decision not to open parts of Christchurch Hospital’s new emergency department (ED) due to financial constraints has been labelled “beyond embarrassing”.

Stuff: New Christchurch Hospital car park expected to be 1000 short of what is needed

A new car park being planned for Christchurch Hospital is expected to provide a further 450 spaces – still almost 1000 short of what experts feel is needed.

Years of inadequate facilities around the central city hospital have seen staff threatened with fines for parking on nearby Hagley Park, medics camping out in their cars to secure spots and nursing staff attacked at night during lengthy walks back to where they have parked.

RNZ: Christchurch hospital staff upset by delays to opening of children’s units

Dr Clare Doocey is upset that hospital emergency care for children in Christchurch will not be moving into a brand new, purpose-built facility.

The new $500m Hagley hospital block has been built with dedicated units for children within the emergency department and intensive care.

But financial troubles at the DHB mean children will still in most cases have to be treated alongside adults, with three units at the block set to be mostly unstaffed.

RNZ: Warning Christchurch Hospital funding woes will put pressure on ICU and elective surgery

The head of intensive care at Christchurch Hospital is warning some surgery for children and adults will have to be put off because of funding woes.

The Canterbury District Health Board says it is not reducing any services.

However, it has run out of money to fully operate three units at its brand new Hagley block.

One of the three services being curtailed is Canterbury’s first-ever dedicated children’s intensive care unit (ICU) (in addition, a specialised children’s unit in the Emergency Department, and an Emergency Observation unit for all ages also face unexpected constraints).

ODT/RNZ: Management exodus: What’s going on at the Canterbury DHB?

There have been five shock resignations from the top levels at the Canterbury and West Coast DHB in just one month.

The Detail talks to former Press reporter Oliver Lewis about the reasons behind the executive management resignations and why the rest of New Zealand should care.

The first to go was the chief people officer Michael Frampton in July, but this month the exodus really started.

In three consecutive days from August 3, the DHB’s planning, funding and decision support executive director Carolyn Gullery, chief executive David Meates and the chief financial officer Justine White, all resigned.

Last Friday the chief medical officer Sue Nightingale – who’s the leader of the region’s Covid-19 response – quit.

“I don’t really know if you can look at that and say that is a coincidence,” says Lewis.

“As the senior doctor’s union has pointed out, it looks more like an implosion and there has been…serious concerns about the relationship between the board and the executive management team.”

ODT: Departing CDHB boss given guard of honour outside hospital

Outgoing Canterbury and West Coast district health board boss David Meates was given a guard of honour by Christchurch Hospital staff today.

Meates resigned as chief executive last month, triggering an outpouring of tributes. Staff applauded him again today as he walked out of the CDHB offices.

He has been chief executive of the CDHB since 2009, and led the region’s health response to both the earthquakes and the March 15 terrorist attack.

He has also clashed with Ministry of Health officials to advocate over funding and facilities. It is a tumultuous period for the CDHB, which is under pressure to address its mounting deficit that reached roughly $180 million in 2019-20.

Tarrant tried to avoid appearing in court for sentencing

Christchurch mosque murderer Brenton Tarrant tried to avoid appearing in person in court for his sentencing, which involved three days of victim statements before he was sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole.

After his first appearance in person in court in Christchurch last year Tarrant had appeared via AVL link from prison in Auckland for further appearances until this week’s sentencing. The Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010 allows AVL to be used at sentencing but at a judge’s discretion.

Tarrant’s lawyers submitted that AVL technology wouldn’t adversely affect their client’s ability to follow proceedings or engage with them.

But his sentencing wasn’t only about him and his convenience.

The judge said: “I am concerned that the defendant’s request could be interpreted as an attempt to withdraw from the sentencing process to avoid having to face the consequences of being publicly held accountable for his offending. The interests of justice do not favour the encouragement or aiding of such a strategy.”

“Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.”

ODT/NZH: Mosque terrorist tried to avoid fronting up to victims

Christchurch mosque killer Brenton Tarrant, repeatedly branded a “gutless coward” by his victims this week, tried to get out of appearing at his own sentencing, it can be revealed.

New court documents released to the New Zealand Herald show that the 29-year-old Australian mass killer applied for permission to appear at his sentencing by way of audio-visual link (AVL) only.

The move – lodged in May after his shock guilty pleas and opposed by Crown lawyers – was rejected by Justice Cameron Mander.

The judge raised concerns that Tarrant was trying to avoid facing the consequences of being publicly held accountable for his offending.

Tarrant’s then lawyers – before he sacked them – tried arguing that suitable technology would’ve been available and that it had been used at earlier court appearances. They said there had been no issues with the quality of the link and that AVL technology wouldn’t have adversely affected their client’s ability to follow proceedings or engage with them.

They also claimed it would have resulted in “significant cost saving” by not having to securely transfer him from Auckland to Christchurch.

In the Crown’s strong opposition, they pointed to the “nature and seriousness of the charges” and the number of victims, along with the impact of his offending.

The Crown lawyers said sentencing would “assume greater importance for the victims, as it has now become the focal point of the criminal proceeding and there is no reason why such an important part of the criminal justice process ought not to be conducted in the usual way with the defendant physically present in the courtroom”.

The judge said Tarrant would be a “critical participant and his physical presence is an important component of the administration of justice in this case”.

“The only apparent justification appears to be the defendant’s preference, which cannot displace the ordinary need for a defendant to be physically before the court for the purpose of being sentenced in the circumstances of such a serious case as this,” Justice Mander ruled.

“Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.”

The judge expressed concern that Tarrant “may well now be seeking to distance himself or disengage from the criminal process”.

“His trepidation may be understandable but the sentencing hearing will be conducted in accordance with the ordinary rules and disciplines that apply to such a proceeding and arrangements will be made to ensure his security,” he said.

So Tarrant’s threats he would use his court appearances to promote his sick ideology changed over time to not wanting to appear in person in front of the victims and judge. Judge Mander at sentencing:

Your plan was to be captured alive and to use your subsequent interactions with the police and the court process to advance your ideological cause. I accept that insofar as you may have thought to use your trial as a platform, you discarded that opportunity when you pleaded guilty and have taken no steps in the course of this hearing to advance the ideology that motivated you.

And despite choosing to represent himself he also chose to not speak at all apart from a couple of brief responses to questions from the judge.

He also did not oppose the life without parole sentence, the first time it has been imposed in New Zealand.

Tarrant sentenced to life without parole

This afternoon Justice Mander condemned the Christchurch mosque killer Brenton Tarrant and sentenced him to life without parole.

“A life sentence without parole… The rhetorical question – if not here, then when?”

On each of the 51 charges of murder (charges 1-51) you are sentenced to life imprisonment. I order that you serve the sentences without parole.

On each of the 40 charges of attempted murder (charges 52-91) you are sentenced to concurrent terms of 12 years’ imprisonment.

On the charge of committing a terrorist act (charge 92) you are sentenced to life imprisonment.

The sentences will be served concurrently, which means little with a no parole life sentence .

Judgment: R v Tarrant
(Note: start from paragraph 145 to skip some harrowing details and go to the sentencing)

Date of Judgment 27 August 2020

Summary Offender pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one of committing a terrorist act after shooting worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch. Court held that no minimum period of imprisonment would be sufficient to satisfy the purpose of sentencing. Offender sentenced to life imprisonment without parole under s 103 (2A) Sentencing Act 2002.

From the judgment:

The distribution of your manifesto, the livestreaming of your crimes, during which you addressed your online audience and provided a running commentary;andthe affectation of decorating your weapons and playing music, were all undertaken to obtain maximum attention and notorietyboth to yourself and your cause. You saw your interview with police as an opportunity to boast about what you had done and to rationalise your actions. If anything more is required beyond your murder of innocent lives, these features point to the depth of your motivation, as does the long period of time over which you planned this terrorism and the lengths you went to execute your ideologically-driven crimes.

lives, these features point to the depth of your motivation, as does the long period of time over which you planned this terrorism and the lengths you went to execute your ideologically-drivencrimes.[173]I am sceptical of your recent representations of having abandoned the ideology that motivated you. You have admitted having lied in the course of earlier assessments and both health assessors express reservations regarding the extentto whichyour most recent statements and changing motives can be relied upon.Your admission that you were aware that what you intended to do was wrong,andyet,thatyou went ahead despite such knowledge,points both to the hold your extremism had over you and its potential to continue to influence you in the most catastrophic of ways.

While you have expressed a willingness to engage in some form of restorative justice process inthe future,it is not apparent from the reports I have read that you have shown muchinterest in your victims, let alone any remorse or empathy for the people you have killed and wounded, or for the wider harm you have caused.You haveto datebeendismissive of any potential rehabilitative interventions.While perhaps reflective of your fluctuating moods,your pastresponseshave beenthat you do not want help; that professionals do not have the training or expertise to deal with your issues. More recently you have indicated an unwillingness to engage with the Department of Corrections.

On the sentence:

Having given the matter much consideration, I am satisfied that no minimum period of imprisonment would be sufficient to satisfy the legitimate need to hold you to account for the harm you have done to the community. Nor do I consider that any minimum term of imprisonment would be sufficient to denounce your crimes. The nature and circumstances of your offending, unprecedented in this country, are such that I consider the requirement that you serve your sentences of life imprisonment for murder without parole is a necessary sanction that provides a proportionate response.

If I was to impose a minimum period of imprisonment in an endeavour to meet the purposes that I am required to achieve in sentencing you for murdering 51 people, it could not be less than your natural life. If the murders at the two mosques were approached as separate attacks,each realistically would have to attract minimum terms in the region of 40 years.In the case of the Al Noor Mosque where you murdered 44 people,a significantly higher term would have to be imposed. Even after factoring in your guilty pleas,that feature is quickly superseded by the need to reflect the associated offending that includes your convictions for attempting to murder 40 other people, all of whom suffered serious gunshot wounds and, most, lasting life-altering injuries. In committing this terrible act you of course attempted to kill many more.

The need to make an order that you serve your sentence without parole does not primarily arise from deterrence nor from the need to protect the community from you, powerful as both considerations are when dealing with an offender capable of such terrible crimes and the necessity of delivering a cogent message that the commission of such an atrocity will be met with the most condign response. However, I am mindful that as the years pass and you become a much older man,the risk you pose could be reassessed.The need for deterrence is also clear but the deluded motivation of zealots capable of such crimes, with their overvalued beliefs that feed such extreme violence,are less likely to be tempered by the fear of penal consequences no matter how severe.

Your crimes, however, are so wicked that even if you are detained until you die,it will not exhaust the requirements of punishment and enunciation. Those legitimate penological grounds for continued detention will remain. At nearly 30 years of age, you are a relatively young man and the justifications for your continued detention over time may shift as the years pass. Some may change but I do not consider, however long the length of your incarceration during your lifetime, that it could, evenin a modest way, at one for what you have done. Ordinarily such an approach would be a poor guarantee of just and proportionate punishment, but I consider yours one of those exceedingly rare cases which is different.

For completeness, I record that if I am wrong tosentenceyou on the basis that the Court retains a residual discretion todecidewhether to impose a life sentence without parole,despite having concluded that no minimum term of imprisonment would be sufficient tohold you to account for the harm you have done,or to denounce your conduct, a whole-of-life sentence would have to follow in any event.

Patrick Gower has done a brief summary of the judge’s address on Twitter:

“Vicious malevolence.” “Pitiless cruelty.” ““Warped and malignant ideas.”

“Anathema to our values.” “It has no place here.” “You remain entirely self-obsessed.” “Your offending is without precedence.”

“Such malice, such callous indifference.”

“Even if you are detained until you die it will not contain enough punishment and denunciation.”

To victims: “I wish them peace and happiness.”

Tarrant to be sentenced today

Victim impact statements continued yesterday in court in Christchurch as part of the sentencing process of mosque murderer Brenton Tarrant.

Tarrant was referred to as a coward, scum and a piece of shit. This seems extreme for a court but if people are to be alowed to say what they think these emotions are understandable. Tarrant committed the worst criminal acts in New Zealand, so the worst of descriptions are appropriate.

Tarant has already pleaded guilty to  51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one charge under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Late yesterday the court was advised the gunman has instructed standby counsel Pip Hall QC to speak on his behalf and will not speak today.

A submission will also be made by Crown counsel.

The judge has been asked by a number of victims to impose the longest possible sentence in New Zealand, life without parole. This sentence has never been imposed before, but a crime this bad has never been committed before.

RNZ: Life without parole

In a small number of cases, the Crown has argued for life to mean life – in which a prisoner remains in jail until they die.

In a case last month, Paul Wilson was sentenced to life in jail with a minimum non-parole period of 28 years.

The longest sentence imposed by a New Zealand court is life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 30 years for the triple killings at an Auckland RSA in 2001.

New Zealand’s longest serving prisoner is Alfred Thomas Vincent, who has been in jail since 1968 for indecently assaulting five boys.

Being given a non-parole period does not mean a prisoner with a life sentence will be given parole. And if they are given parole they can be recalled to prison if the breach life long conditions of parole.

I think that for Tarrant life without parole is justified. It’s hard to imagine what would justify this maximum sentence if Tarrant isn’t given it. It would have to be at least longer than the current highest non-parole period of 30 years.

Tarrant will have to serve his whole prison sentence in New Zealand. There is currently no legal means of transferring him to Australia.


Reports of victim statements:

RNZ: Family of 3yo killed in mosque attacks confront gunman: ‘True justice is waiting for you in the next life’

The small child was clinging to his father’s leg among a group of worshippers – some dead or badly injured – in the north-eastern corner of the mosque’s main prayer room.

The young boy’s age and stature made no difference to the terrorist.

He took deliberate aim at the little boy and fired two shots.

Mucaad’s family this morning confronted his killer.

The family emigrated from Somalia in 1995 as refugees.

They were all New Zealand citizens and little Mucaad was born here.

“You killed my son, but to me it is as if you have killed the whole of New Zealand,” his father, Aden Diriye, said.

“He was adored by all and loved by any who gazed upon him.

“He used to engage in play with the police. At home he used to run around the house and pretend to be a cop and wear the police uniform. We thought one day he would become a cop.”

He could not understand the killer’s callous hatred, Mr Diriye said.

“I don’t know you. I never hurt you, your mother, your father or any of your friends. Rather I’m the kind of person who would help you with anything,” he said.

He told the terrorist he had united the country in grief.

Also from RNZ:

‘I saw the fear in his eyes,’ says man who chased killer

The contrast cannot be more stark. The bravery of a 15-year-old girl, and the cowardice of a 29-year-old terrorist.

A 15-year-old girl, who cannot be named, this afternoon confronted the terrorist directly during her victim impact statement.

“Why did you kill my dad? Why did you take the most important person away?” she asked him.

“He will always be in my heart and the hearts of those who love him. But you, you will be alone in prison.

“The only one who lost everything was you. Congratulations Mr Terrorist, you have failed.”

The terrorist’s cowardice was often pointed out during this afternoon’s session.

Sehan El Wakil told the terrorist he was a coward.

“If you were a real man you would have faced them [the victims], face-to-face, not with a gun behind their backs,” she said.

Abdul Aziz Wahabzadah, who chased Tarrant from Linwood Islamic Centre using an eftpos machine, told the terrorist he should thank Allah he did not catch him on 15 March 2019.

“He acts very tough but, to be honest with you, he’s nothing,” Wahabzadah said.

“You are a terrorist. You are a racist. You are a cold-blooded murderer who hides behind his weapons,” Feroz Ditta told Tarrant.

“Your time will come – that I can assure you, mate.

“For the rest of your life you won’t be able to embrace your parents and your family, and be part of their lives.

“You will no longer be able to hug your mother. They are at a loss because they have lost their son for the rest of their lives.”

And: Christchurch mosque attacks: ‘We defy your actions of hatred’ 

“I don’t go to the mosque so much now because I’m too scared to go there. It’s just too hard for me now because of the gun shooting that day and my best friend being shot dead there in front of me. This has changed everything in my life. I miss my best friend Matiullah – he was like a brother to me.”

– Taj Kamran, who was shot on 15 March 2019

“Burying one dead friend is heartbreaking but imagine burying a one of a kind. A one of a kind that is my son Ata and 49 beloved brothers and sisters in one go. No words can describe what my heart experienced at that time and is still experiencing.”

– Mohammad Alayyan, whose son Ata Elayyan was killed on 15 March 2019

“You took away not just the most amazing son, but the best father, husband, brother, friend, relative, neighbour, employer, team member, motivational speaker and a pious Muslim.”

– Maysoon Salama, whose son Ata Elayyan was killed on 15 March 2019

“Eternal happiness only exists in the hereafter in the highest heavens where one day my daughter and I will be reunited with our beloved Ata. Until then I will carry the heavy weight of our dreams and daydream about the uncompleted trips and plan the goals I wanted to achieve with my love. Our daughter will live in the shadows of her beloved father. She will know him through her eyes, as she has his, through our love and the love everyone has for him. His legacy will live forever.”

– Farah Kamal, whose husband Ata Elayyan was killed on 15 March 2019

“The first shots I heard made me turn and see the gunman enter. I witnessed fellow peaceful worshippers innocently gunned down. The gunman and I looked into each other’s eyes. I saw the moment when I was the target of his gun. I was shot nine times.”

– Temel Atacocugu, who was shot on 15 March 2019

“Syed left behind myself and three children, all under five years of age.”

Amna Ali, whose husband Syed Jahandad Ali was killed on 15 March 2019

“We always celebrated our birthdays together, which are one day apart. I’ll never be able to wake up to his cheeky gifts or contagious smiles again. My best friend was executed in cold-blooded murder out of hatred.”

– Aya Al Umari, whose brother Hussein Al-Umari was killed on 15 March 2019

“It was extremely painful to feel so helpless while watching your soulmate breathe his last breathe.”

– Saira Patel, whose husband Musa Patel was killed on 15 March 2019

“The day of the shocking mosque shooting at Linwood Mosque was like living a nightmare with everything coming to a stop and life revolving just around that one phone call I received and those messages from my mum saying ‘We are about to die and love you all’.”

– Irfan Patel, whose father Musa Patel was killed on 15 March 2019

“When I first got the news of the events of 15th March 2019 I was in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. We were heartbroken and clueless as we did not have any information on him. Once on the news we even saw a picture of someone on a stretcher wearing the same jacket as the one Ozair had. Those moments were the most difficult ones in our lives.”

– Kadir Habib, whose son Ozair Kadir was killed on 15 March 2019

“My parents and brother were the source of all emotional support, happiness and comfort for me. I used to visit my parents and stay with them in Pakistan regularly. The sudden death of all of them has really jolted me.”

– Mariam Gul, whose parents, Karam Bibi and Ghulam Hussain, and brother Muhammad Zeshan Raza were killed on 15 March 2019

“You killed 51 people and injured so many who were there to attend Friday prayers. We have grieved as a community. We have cried along with those families that have lost loved ones and yes we are stronger and defy your actions of hatred. We still find New Zealand to be one of safest countries to live.”

– Mohammad Siddiqui, who was shot on 15 March 2019

“I have spent a lot of time thinking about what transpired and what took place was unjust, unfair and there was no right for anyone to interfere in our place in our peaceful prayer time. My brother’s three children now yearn for their father and continue life without their daddy.”

– Zahid Ismail, whose brother Junaid Ismail was killed on 15 March 2019

“After the events of 15th March 2019 I don’t feel I have to hide my faith at work anymore. This has been a positive outcome for me. I have been more open in practicing my faith in the workplace . . . which was supported and respected by my colleagues.”

– Raesha Ismail, whose brother Junaid Ismail was killed on 15 March 2019

“The shot went through my right underarm and fortunately back out again. I was screaming to Ibrahim and Mostafa to get out, as they were at the front of the mosque. I remember seeing the defendant spray his bullets at the men sitting on the seats at the rear of the prayer room and as you can imagine this was so traumatic for me.”

– Salwa El Shazley, who was shot on 15 March 2019

“When the shooting started I remember I tried to get through a doorway into another room. It was then that I felt something, like a shudder, in my leg. I reached down and I saw and I felt the blood and the hole, and I knew I had been shot. I fell down. Someone else fell down near me and I saw people falling and being shot. I heard people calling for help.”

– Motasim Hafiz Uddin, who was shot on 15 March 2019

“My son now leaves this temporary world as a martyr. That’s a blessing that connects me more to God and helps me through life as I’m missing my son. I too was present in the mosque when so many lives left this temporary world by your hands. My survival comes as a great blessing and when I reflect on that day I’ve decided that I will live my life doing great things for our people and our community.”

– Noraini Milne, whose son Sayyad Milne was killed on 15 March 2019

“As a parent no matter how old your children are they will still be your babies forever. Our children bring out the best and worse in us. Two days later I went with my wife Rosemary to the mortuary to view Tariq’s body and to identify him. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Tariq was lying on the table lifeless. I couldn’t hold back my tears even though I was trying so hard to be strong for my wife. The tragic sudden loss of my son Tariq has taken a huge toll on me. I couldn’t function properly for a long time.”

– Rashid Omar, whose son Tariq Omar was killed on 15 March 2019

“I’m so proud to have him as my son. It’s good to remember the positives in Tariq’s life and not his tragic death and the circumstances surrounding that. But at times it’s very difficult to see any positives and even have the will to live.”

– Rosemary Omar, whose son Tariq Omar was killed on 15 March 2019

“He was three or four metres from me when he went and shot at me, missing my head by one inch and it went into my shoulder. I didn’t move, I didn’t make any noise. It took all my strength to continue to play dead even though I had been injured. The shooter seemed to think I was dead and left me alone.”

– Hazem Mohamed, who was shot on 15 March 2019

“My 71-year-old dad would have broke you in half if you challenged him to a fight, but you are weak. A sheep with a wolf’s jacket on.”

– Ahad Nabi, whose father Haji Daoud Nabi was killed on 15 March 2019

“You will be remembered as a scared killer and nothing more. And, yes, without even your name. Just an insignificant killer who’s lonely, scared and left behind to suffer for eternity.”

– Mustafa Boztas, who was shot on 15 March 2019

“As a family our lives have changed because now my wife has to do everything. Everyone relies on her and she is also worried about our financial situation because we don’t know how long ACC can cover me financially.”

– Rahimi Ahmad, who was shot on 15 March 2019

“I no longer feel safe in my own home, in my own country and I was always carry this heavy stone in my heart for a tragedy that was one tragedy too many. Though that aside with the aroha the beautiful people of Aotearoa have given us I can find pockets of hope and temporary freedom from this terror, this nightmare that we aren’t awakening from and I will always return to the reality that my beautiful father, Abdelfattah, is someone I can no longer speak to, hear or hug. All a daughter ever wants is her dad.”

– Sara Qasem, whose father Abdelfattah Qasem was killed on 15 March 2019

“I have forgiven you Brenton. Even though you murdered my 14-year-old son Sayyad. Not a single bullet hit me. I wasn’t even there, but there was a huge hole in my heart which will only heal when I meet Sayyad again in heaven. I hope to see you there too Brenton and if you get the chance I would love you to say sorry to Sayyad. I’m sure he’s forgiven you too.”

– John Milne, whose son Sayyad Milne was killed on 15 March 2019

“I want you to know you have not broken our society. You have made us even more visible as a Muslim community. You have made us even more visible globally on the map. You have shown New Zealand how important multiculturalism is. We are not broken because of your actions.”

– Jibran Safi, whose father Matiullah Safi was killed on 15 March 2019

“You put bullets into my husband and he fought death for 48 days, 18 surgeries until his last breathe. My eldest son has only five years’ worth of memories with his father. My wee one much less, not enough.”

– Hamimah Tuyan, whose husband Zekeriya Tuyan was killed on 15 March 2019

Mosque shooting – victim statements

Surviving victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings began to present their victim impact statements in court yesterday – the actual sentencing of Brenton Tarrant will happen on Thursday morning at the earliest.

The statements give victims a chance to have their say in front of the person who callously injured them or murdered their family members and friends.

Tributes and defiance in courtroom 12

Now they were having to make peace with the unimaginable, a heinous murderous attack on the holiest of days, a Friday, in the holiest of places, a mosque. Yesterday, the first wave of March 15 attack victims and families of the Shaheed, or martyrs, faced the gunman and told their stories.

Widows spoke of their struggles, parents recounted how their children keep asking where their grandfather is. Families paid tribute to their lost loved ones, their achievements, their courage and bravery.

Raw and painful testimonies showed how victims and families are still living this tragedy. Bodies still containing bullets or shrapnel – and always will. People who are waiting for their next surgery, or fighting ACC for help, who expect to live the rest of their lives in constant pain because of nerve damage.

Some are too mentally traumatised to work, and are struggling financially. Whose suffering is so close to the surface they’re easily angered and reduced to tears. They can’t sleep, and are paralysed by hopelessness and unimaginable grief. They dread Fridays.

It’s no wonder. They’re haunted by horrific images, flashbacks of the terrible attack.

But having their say in court gives them an opportunity to deal with their trauma and grief.

And to show their defiance and strength.

Khaled Majed Abd’el Rauf Alnobani saw people he knew get shot at An-Nur. He outlined his struggles with everyday life through an interpreter. As he finished, he pointed at the gunman and said in English: “We have become more united. You have made that, and thank you for that.”

Janna Ezat, whose son Hussein Al-Umari died at Masjid An-Nur, recounted the Islamic saying: If we are able to forgive, forgive. There was only one choice, said Ezat, a calligraphy artist. “I have decided to forgive you, Mr Tarrant, because I don’t have hate, I don’t have revenge.”

Al-Umari’s sister, Aya, said: “Now you’ve killed him I’ve turned to God and that’s made my faith in Islam even stronger.”

Marium Gul’s parents, Karam Bibi and Ghulam Hussain, and brother Muhammad Zeshan Raza, all died at the Linwood mosque. In a video statement recorded in Pakistan, Gul says the gunman should repent for what he’s done. “But more important is the realisation that hate towards Islam is wrong – Islam is a peaceful religion.”

These were ordinary people living in New Zealand who happen to be involved in one of many religions.

The vast majority of fellow New Zealanders have expressed sympathy and solidarity with the survivors.

Christchurch mosque attack victims address gunman: ‘We did not deserve your actions’

Victims of the Christchurch terror attack

Christchurch mosque shooter appears moved as victim’s mother offers forgiveness

Mosque survivor: ‘I have about 1000 bits of shrapnel throughout my body

Mosque shooting summary of facts

The sentencing of Brenton Tarrant began in Christchurch yesterday with the reading of the Police summary of facts. He faces 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge of commiting a terrorist act.

Then victim impact statements began – these are expected to take about three days.

The judge indicated that the actual sentencing won’t happen until Thursday morning at the earliest. Tarrant will get a mandatory life sentence and will presumably get the longest non-parole period imposed, or possibly no chance of parole.

The summary of facts shows how callous Tarrant was. From Stuff – Mosque gunman killed worshippers as they pleaded for their lives:

New details emerged as the summary of facts was read in court on Monday morning, including the gunman’s planning of the attack and graphic accounts of the “systematic” shootings he carried out, including of young children.

He slowly and deliberately shot people who were wounded and crying out for help with his AR-15. They included a 3-year-old boy clinging to his father’s legs. He shot the child twice.

The gunman fired 32 shots from his AR-15 into the mass of people huddled in the corner.

As the gunman drove off, he drove over the body of a woman who was lying on the side of the road where he had killed her earlier.

Various news reports give quite a lot of detail, but I don’t see a need to repeat more here.

Reading the statement of facts is a requirement of New Zealand’s judicial process.

It is hard to imagine how anyone could be so callous and cowardly, killing and injuring so many innocent people going about their normal lives, but Tarrant was.

Tarrant sentencing begins today

Brendon Tarrant pleaded guilty to the murder of 51 people and the attempted murder of 49 people at two mosques in Christchurch on 15 March 2019.

His sentencing begins in Christchurch today. As it will allow victims to have a say via Victim Impact Statements it will take three days.

As Tarrant has chosen to represent himself he will also get a say. It will be interesting to hear what approach he takes now he has had a 17 months to contemplate what he has done, and also what he didn’t achieve apart from near universal condemnation.

Tarrant will get a mandatory life sentence. The unknown at this stage is what sort of non-parole period he will get, if any. It has to be the most severe sentence given in New Zealand since capital punishment was abolished.

Police managed the firearms buy back scheme well – Auditor-General

The Auditor-General has investigated the firearms buy-back and amnesty scheme that was put in place following the deaths of 51 people at the Christchurch mosque shootings, and says that the Police managed the scheme well, but advised that “more work should be done to find out what level of compliance with the scheme has been achieved and the extent to which it has made New Zealanders safer.”

The Minister of police summarised the findings of the report in Gun buyback well run, ongoing work needed

  • The buyback scheme was complex, challenging, and high risk, and Police managed it effectively,
  • 61,332 prohibited firearms were collected, destroyed, or modified, as at February 2020. Every single one of them was tightly traced and accounted for during the process.
  • Compensation of $102 million was paid and the final cost is forecast to be $120 million. Police took a principled and informed approach to compensation prices,
  • Police communicated well with the public, and treated gun owners with empathy and respect. There was a wide range of opportunities for people to hand in guns,
  • No one could be certain how many prohibited firearms existed before the law change. Police estimates, scrutinised by NZIER, suggested it could range from 55,000 to 240,000 firearms. NZIER advised part of the uncertainty was because guns could be easily modified with certain parts to make them a prohibited firearm,
  • There were deficiencies in how information was recorded in the past for military style semi-automatics, or E-category firearms. However Police were successful in locating them and are actively following up outstanding items,
  • The buyback scheme was supported by good systems and processes, with a robust level of oversight,
  • It cost more to administer the scheme than first anticipated. The initial estimate of $18 million grew to $35 million which Police met from internal budgets. The OAG found financial controls were appropriate and there was no wasteful spending,
  • More work is needed to process some applications. The OAG Report lists the number of outstanding applications as at February 2020, but the figures are now lower. Police are expected to keep publicly reporting on this till it is complete,
  • The scheme is important for the well-being of New Zealanders and Police should carry out a formal evaluation to look at compliance with firearms laws and improvements to public safety over time.

From the OAG report:

As part of the response to the attacks, Parliament passed the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Act 2019 on 11 April 2019. The Act prohibited firearms with the ability to cause harm in a rapid and highly destructive way from a distance.

The Act, supplemented by a set of associated statutory regulations, included a provision for a firearms buy-back and amnesty scheme (the scheme). The scheme allowed owners of newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts to hand them in to the New Zealand Police (the Police) in exchange for compensation. The purpose of the scheme was to improve public safety. We examined how effectively and efficiently the Police implemented the scheme.

We thought it important to provide the Police with real-time feedback so that they could make any improvements the scheme needed quickly. The Police were open to receiving and acting on Ernst & Young’s feedback and recommendations. I commend the Police for the open approach they took to this assurance work.

We make no comment on the policy decision to have a buy-back scheme because commenting on policy decisions is outside of my statutory mandate.

The Police managed the scheme effectively

Implementing the scheme was a complex, challenging, and high-risk task, and the Police had to do it in tight time frames.

The Police communicated with the public well

We found that the Police, assessors, and support staff treated people handing in firearms with empathy and respect. Firearms assessors were trained extensively to make fair decisions on compensating people for their firearms.

The scheme was supported by good systems and processes

The Police used a software system to register and track handed-in firearms and process compensation payments. This system was well designed and thoroughly tested before it went live. Although it mostly worked well, some internet connectivity issues caused delays at some local collection events.

Compensation payments did not exceed what was appropriated, and ACC’s contribution was compatible with its statutory functions

The 2019 Budget included an appropriation of $150 million in Vote Police to fund compensation payments for people handing in their prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts. The Police’s provisional information at 20 December 2019 shows that compensation payments to that date totalled $102 million.

Administering the scheme cost considerably more than estimated

In March 2019, the Police produced an initial estimate that administering the scheme would cost $18 million.

he Police now estimate that, once fully completed, administering the scheme will have cost up to $35 million. This includes costs of tracked staff time, contractors, and goods and services.

The Police need to finish implementing the scheme and make improvements to support their regulatory responsibilities

The Police still have much work to do to complete the scheme.

The process of implementing the scheme is ongoing and has proved more challenging than the Police anticipated. Some firearms still need modifications to comply with the new regulatory requirements, and the Police are still processing applications for endorsements to use newly prohibited firearms for a limited range of purposes. In my view, the Police should continue to report publicly on the performance of the scheme until they have completed this remaining work. The Police should also report to Parliament about the final outcomes of the scheme.

Importantly, the scheme is only one component of firearms regulation the Police have to implement. The Government introduced a Bill on 13 September 2019 that includes a wide range of controls on the use and possession of firearms. Parliament was considering this Bill at the time we were writing this report.

Concluding thoughts

The Police managed the scheme well. They were effective in providing people with a wide range of opportunities to hand in firearms and receive compensation, which was paid in a timely manner. The public was kept safe at local collection events, and the Police made considerable efforts to treat people with empathy and respect. However, there is still much work to be done, and the Police should continue to focus on completing the scheme.

We do not yet know how effective the scheme was in removing all newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts from the community. This is because there is no reliable picture of how many newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts remain in the community. Without this picture, I cannot determine whether implementing the scheme has delivered value for money.

In my view, given the high level of public interest and expenditure, and the importance of this scheme for the well-being of all New Zealanders, more work should be done to find out what level of compliance with the scheme has been achieved and the extent to which it has made New Zealanders safer.

Read the whole report (52 pages)

 

Christchurch mosque murderer pleads guilty to all charges

This is a surprise, but a good one – Christchurch mosque attacks: Gunman pleads guilty to all charges

At the High Court in Christchurch, Brenton Tarrant admitted 51 of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Until today he had denied all of the charges and was scheduled to stand trial in June. The guilty plea means he has become New Zealand’s first convicted terrorist.

The 29 year old showed no emotion as he appeared via audio visual link in the High Court at around 10am.

No explanation for Tarrant’s change of heart was given during today’s hearing. He has been remanded in custody until May.

No sentencing date has been set as the courts continue to grapple with widespread disruption from the Covid-19 outbreak.

Any possible ambitions of using the trial for grandstanding seems to have dissipated.

This is great news for the victims’ families who now don’t have to have the horror brought up time and time again in court.

From the Judge’s minute on today’s hearing that explains some of the proceeding:

[1] Earlier this week the Court received an indication from the defendant’s counsel that he may seek to change his plea to the charges. Yesterday, counsel received formal written instructions to that effect. A formal request was then made by the defendant that he be brought before the Court, in accordance with s 42(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011, to change his plea.

[2] As a result of that request the charges have been put to him this morning. He has pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and the charge of committing a terrorist act. He has been convicted of each and every one of
those charges. There is now no need for a trial and the six week hearing set down for June can be vacated.

[12] Despite the defendant having provided his counsel with written instructions of his intention to change his plea to guilty and he having now done so, there was of course no guarantee that when the charges were read to him this morning he would in fact do so. It was therefore necessary to suppress the fact that the matter was being called and the purpose of the hearing.

[13] Section 43 of the Criminal Procedure Act provides that where a defendant indicates an intention to plead guilty but does not go ahead and plead guilty, the defendant must be treated in all respects as if he or she had not indicated any intention
to plead guilty, and no comment may be made in any subsequent proceedings of that fact. The fact that a defendant has indicated an intention to plead guilty is not admissible in evidence against a defendant. It follows that any prior publication or
disclosure to the public of the defendant’s intention to plead guilty had the potential to prejudice his trial and taint the jury pool with information that should not be within their knowledge.

[14] For that reason no prior notice was able to be provided to the victims and their families of the defendant’s intention to plead guilty, nor of the convening of this morning’s hearing. Because of that requirement and the circumstances that prevent
them being here today, were I to permit members of the media to immediately report on the content and outcome of this morning’s hearing, it is likely that the first those persons – victims and their families – would hear of this significant development, in which they have so much invested, would be through the media, in the same way as the general public. That would be an undesirable state of affairs and is directly linked with having to proceed in their absence.

[15] To try and avoid that situation or, at least, to some degree mitigate the impact on the victims and their families’ of the lost opportunity to immediately learn of the defendant’s change of plea first-hand by attending Court, I intend to embargo publication of any report about this morning’s hearing for one hour – that is until 11.30 am this morning. The police and Victim Support Advisors have made arrangements in anticipation of the defendant pleading guilty to notify victims and their families as soon as possible. I would ask for your forbearance in permitting them the opportunity to carry out that task. There will be an interim suppression order suppressing publication of the fact of this morning’s hearing and the content and outcome of the
hearing, including of course the fact that the defendant has changed his pleas until 11.30 am.

Click to access R-v-Tarrant-20200326.pdf

How much have the mosque killings changed New Zealand?

Two different views on whether we have been changed by last year’s Christchurch mosque killings.

I’m somewhere in between those views. I don’t feel changed, but some things have changed.

Obviously there has been significant change to our firearm laws, with high powered semi-automatic firearms mostly now banned and handed in. It should also be even harder to get a firearm license, but in my experience the renal process was already rigorous.

There have been large and widespread expressions of sympathy and support for Muslim communities in New Zealand. While the visible expressions have been a change, those expressing would have mostly if not entirely been sympathetic to this sort of tragedy anyway, regardless of who the victims were.

Going by online opinions and exposure of far right extremists intolerance of Muslims and Islam hasn’t changed for some, but they are likely to be a small minority.

In some ways things will have changed for Muslims and Muslim communities in New Zealand – they will now be more cautious and probably fearful of something similar being repeated. That change will be fundamental to them.

To an extent prejudice, intolerance and abuse continues. The amount of this may or may not have changed much.

Every big tragedy changes things, but it’s difficult to judge by how much. A lot also remains much the same.

Ardern is partly right, there has been fundamental changes.

But Hooton is also right, “by and large we were “good-hearted, practical, commonsensical and tolerant” – they majority of us anyway.