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.”