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.

Bridges versus Ardern: “in hot pursuit of murderers”

A shock in question time in Parliament – while grilling Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges appeared to think on his feet and ask an off-the-cuff non-scripted question. It even raised a few laughs across the house.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why will union representatives not be required to gain consent from an employer before entering the premises of their workplace when even a police officer has to ask a judge for a warrant?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I pointed out in my last answer, if there are health and safety obligations that require them to do so, then they would. Again, I come back to this issue that these are changes that existed, in many cases in this omnibus bill, right up until 2015. These are changes that allow employees to have a voice, to be well represented in the workplace, and I’m surprised that the member considers that this is going to have such a dire impact on the economy.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Using the member’s previous question, does a policeman in hot pursuit of a highly suspected murderer inside an office situation have to spend all the time to go and ask a judge for a warrant to pick that person up?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I had called order before, but I think we’ll just leave it there.

Hon Simon Bridges: Can the Minister confirm that we are giving unions the powers that we give police officers when they’re in hot pursuit of murderers?

While Ardern avoided answering that directly, apparently not.

Draft transcript:


1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: When she was asked whether proposed employment law changes would allow a union representative to enter the property of a business without the business’ permission, does she stand by her answer “only if the person in question they are visiting is a member of the union.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m glad the member’s asked that question again; it gives me a chance to clarify. The example that he gave related to farmhouses, and I know that section 19 of the Act and the proposal that is included in this bill specifically precludes going into a dwelling, which means that the example that the member used would not have been accurate. So thank you for the opportunity to clarify.

Hon Simon Bridges: Can she confirm that the Government’s changes actually give the power to union representatives to enter the premises of a business without their permission, even if there are no union members on site, so that unions can recruit new members or distribute the union information?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The first principle I want to point out is that this legislation that is before Parliament at present, essentially, brings back employment legislation that existed right up until 2015 in some cases, and I have to say that unless the member is now saying that there was a dire economic situation for the six years his Government was last in as a consequence of that legislation, then that’s for him to argue. We personally do not believe that this is the case with these changes. To come back to the question that the member raised, for the purposes of perhaps signing up directly a union member, which is quite a specific circumstance, then that would be the case. But, again, I point out that section 21 of the Act means that the union official has to comply with all reasonable health and safety and security procedures and must access the workplace in a reasonable way, having regard to normal business operations in the workplace. There are plenty of protections in place.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has she seen comments by the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety in relation to her answers in the House last week: “If the National Party really wanted to debate the detail of the bill, they would be asking me questions, because it is my responsibility to understand the detail of this legislation. They should be talking to me, not trying to catch the Prime Minister off guard.”, and, if so, does she agree with her Minister that she was caught off guard?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I know the point that the Minister was making was that if this was such a significant issue for the economy, why has the spokesperson not asked the Minister directly about this issue?

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think it’s her responsibility to know the detail of a policy that business says is their number one concern with her Government?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As much as it is the Opposition leader’s responsibility to know that a union official can’t enter a farmhouse.

Hon Simon Bridges: To be really clear: can the Prime Minister confirm that under the Government’s proposed employment law changes, a union representative will be able to enter the premises of a business without permission from that business?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The person in question has to comply with the rules and obligations of that workplace, including the health and safety obligations. So if that means reporting in at the gate because there are health and safety obligations, then they must comply with that law.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why will union representatives not be required to gain consent from an employer before entering the premises of their workplace when even a police officer has to ask a judge for a warrant?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I pointed out in my last answer, if there are health and safety obligations that require them to do so, then they would. Again, I come back to this issue that these are changes that existed, in many cases in this omnibus bill, right up until 2015. These are changes that allow employees to have a voice, to be well represented in the workplace, and I’m surprised that the member considers that this is going to have such a dire impact on the economy.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Using the member’s previous question, does a policeman in hot pursuit of a highly suspected murderer inside an office situation have to spend all the time to go and ask a judge for a warrant to pick that person up?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I had called order before, but I think we’ll just leave it there.

Hon Simon Bridges: Can the Minister confirm that we are giving unions the powers that we give police officers when they’re in hot pursuit of murderers?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The point that the Deputy Prime Minister was making was that the member is being alarmist and dramatic.

Hon Simon Bridges: Can she confirm that under the Government’s proposed employment law changes, businesses owners will now have to pay workers for time spent undertaking union activities?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, in the same way that they have to, under the legislation, also allow them to have rest and meal breaks.

Hon Simon Bridges: So, to be clear, can she confirm that under the Government’s proposed employment law changes, businesses will now be responsible for funding union activities while workers should otherwise be doing their job?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I would encourage the member to have a long conversation with the likes of Air New Zealand, where, through their framework of working collectively with their employees, they have improved the productivity, the health and safety, and they have a high-performance workplace. Unlike the member, I don’t believe that excluding employees is the way to become a productive company in a productive country.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will the law changes make private businesses responsible for undertaking and funding union membership drives?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I say, this is legislation that existed under the last Government, and at that point—unless they’re starting to argue that under the first six years of their reign the economy tanked, they might want to change to a new line of questioning, because we on this side of the House believe it’s possible to empower employees to have a voice in the workplace and it won’t endanger business or the economy.