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 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.

Moko’s killers get 17 years

Tania Shailer and David Haerewa, the two people responsible for killing Moko Rangitoheriri, were sentenced to 17 years in prison with non-parole periods of 9 years. This is the longest sentence given to people guilty of manslaughter of a child.

Over a period of two months, the pair kicked Moko, threw him, dropped him face first on the floor, bit and stomped on him and denied him medical treatment. He arrived at hospital with swelling to his face so bad it was impossible to open his eyes.

His abdomen was distended, he had bruising on his front and back, multiple abrasions and wounds that appeared to be human bite marks were found on his face and arms.

– Stuff EXPLAINER: Moko’s killers got manslaughter to eliminate ‘substantial risk’ of either walking free

This sounds like a fair sentence (as fair as you can be to child torturers). It’s as long as some murderers get. If they were given an unusually long sentence it would have raised the risks of the sentence being appealed and overturned or reduced.

The Police statement in reaction to Moko sentencing:

Police want to again extend their condolences and sympathy to the family of Moko Rangitoheriri, following the sentencing of Tania Shailer and David Haerewa this morning.  

Police also want to acknowledge the officers who worked on the investigation into Moko’s death. 

Any case involving a young and vulnerable victim like Moko is extremely difficult for all involved, and I would like to commend the officers involved for their diligence and professionalism.

Finally, Police ask that media continue to respect the privacy of Moko’s extended family.  We appreciate the ongoing public interest in this case, but attempts by media to contact the extended family, particularly vulnerable younger members, have caused a significant amount of distress to the family. 

And Attorney General Chris Finlayson explained the reasoning behind settling for manslaughter charges and not trying for murder – to make sure they got a conviction.


Statement on Moko case

Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson today set out the reasons for the Crown’s decision to accept the manslaughter pleas of Tania Shailer and David Haerewa in substitution of murder charges for the killing of Moko Rangitoheriri.

Ms Shailer and Mr Haerewa were today both sentenced to 17 years in prison, with a minimum non-parole period of nine years. Until that sentencing took place, the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General were unable to comment on the specifics of the case, as the sentencing was a matter for the courts.

“The Crown’s decisions in this case, including the decision to accept the manslaughter pleas, were motivated by the need to secure convictions for this horrendous killing and to avoid the significant risk that either of the defendants could escape such a conviction because of evidential issues,” Mr Finlayson said.

“The guilty pleas and admitted facts enabled the Crown to argue for a sentence which reflected the nature of the crimes committed. Without the guilty pleas, the full details of the facts set out in the Statement of Facts may not have otherwise come to light.

“The decision to accept a plea of manslaughter in substitution of a murder charge is never taken lightly. A robust process is followed which ultimately requires the approval of the Solicitor-General.

“The overarching consideration is whether the interests of justice are met in accepting the plea and in particular, whether the charge can adequately reflect the criminal nature of the conduct as well as allow sufficient scope for sentencing.

“Based on the evidence available for trial, there was a substantial risk that one or both of the defendants would not be convicted of the legal charge of murder or manslaughter.

“To prove the legal charge of murder in this case, the Crown was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Moko’s fatal injuries were inflicted with murderous intent.

“The Crown was confident that Ms Shailer was the principal offender and most likely directly responsible for Moko’s most serious injuries. The nature of Mr Haerewa’s involvement in Moko’s fatal injuries was less clear on the evidence available for trial.

“It was relevant to the likelihood of securing a murder conviction that the injuries Moko suffered were not inevitably fatal. With reasonably prompt medical treatment, he could have been saved.

“Let me be clear, this in no way reduces the seriousness of the abuse Moko suffered. It is, however, something the jury would have had to take into account when deciding if Ms Shailer had murderous intent at the time she inflicted the fatal injuries.

“If the jury was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms Shailer had murderous intent at the time she inflicted the fatal injuries, then neither she nor Mr Haerewa could have been convicted of murder.

“Of course, the defendants also had a responsibility to obtain the medical treatment which would have saved Moko’s life. By failing to discharge this duty, they contributed to his death in addition to causing his fatal injuries.

“But the failure to discharge this duty could not in itself lead to a murder conviction for both defendants nor would a conviction for manslaughter based solely on this failure have adequately reflected the defendants’ role in inflicting the injuries which killed Moko.

“The Solicitor-General considered that accepting guilty pleas for manslaughter in substitution of murder charges meant that both Ms Shailer and Mr Haerewa:

  1. admitted responsibility for inflicting the injuries which killed Moko and their failure to obtain him lifesaving medical treatment; and
  2. could be given a sentence which reflected the serious nature of their crimes.

“Mr Haerewa admitted he had contributed to Moko’s death by encouraging and supporting Ms Shailer’s physical abuse. In the absence of his guilty plea, Mr Haerewa’s role in the violence that killed Moko may not have been adequately recognised in the ultimate outcome of a trial.

“The guilty pleas in this case also avoided exposing young and vulnerable children to the trauma of giving evidence including, for some, evidence against their parents.

“There has been significant public interest in this case and numerous statements have been made in the media about the charging of Tania Shailer and David Haerewa.

“The cost of prosecuting this trial was not a factor taken into account in approving the manslaughter charge. The public interest in prosecuting such serious crime would never take into account the financial cost of bringing a defendant to trial.

“Nor is plea bargaining a feature of the New Zealand justice system. Prosecutors cannot agree to a guilty plea based on the premise they will support a specific sentence.”

Notes for the editor:

The Attorney-General has overall responsibility to the citizens of New Zealand for prosecutions carried out by or on behalf of the Crown through Parliament.

In practice, however, the Attorney-General is not involved in individual criminal cases. These matters are formally delegated to the Solicitor-General to avoid any political interference, or appearance of political interference, in our criminal justice system.

As set out in section 185 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011, the Solicitor-General is responsible for maintaining general oversight of the conduct of public prosecutions. As part of that role the Solicitor-General provides prosecution guidelines that all Crown Solicitors must adhere to.

In accordance with clause 18 of the guidelines, the Solicitor-General must approve all plea arrangements in relation to murder charges. Where a defendant indicates they will plead guilty to a charge of manslaughter, the Crown Solicitor is required to refer that offered plea to the Solicitor-General to approve the withdrawal of the murder charge in substitution for that of manslaughter.

The Crown Solicitor prepares a letter of advice for the Solicitor-General and forwards all relevant material from the trial file. Counsel within Crown Law prepare an initial opinion, which is then reviewed by senior Crown Counsel before final referral to the ultimate decision maker. The decision maker can be the Deputy Solicitor-General (Criminal) exercising the powers of the Solicitor-General, or the Solicitor-General her or himself.

Approval is only given after careful consideration of the factors detailed in the prosecution guidelines. The overarching consideration is whether the interests of justice are met and in particular:

  • whether the charge adequately reflects the essential criminality of the conduct; and
  • whether the charge provides sufficient scope for sentencing to reflect that criminality.

If a plea is accepted it is only on the basis that the factual basis for sentencing must outline in full the extent of the injury or damage suffered by the victim to ensure this can be reflected in sentencing.

 

Tania Shailer and David Haerewa sentencing

Tania Shailer and David Haerewa, the two people responsible for the awful ill treatment and death of Moko Rangitoheriri, were found guilty of manslaughter and will be sentenced in Rotorua this morning.

Manslaughter can involve a wide range of severity and sentences can range from slight through to a life sentence similar to murder.

Also today there will be a number of protests around the country.

Concerns have been raised about the charges being downgraded from murder to manslaughter, to which the two plead guilty, with accusations of what effectively amounted to plea bargaining.

I won’t make a judgement on that without knowing the facts.

Attorney General Chris Finlayson has said the decision to drop a murder charge was signed off by Solicitor-General Una Jagose and has called criticism of the plea deal criticism of the plea deal as “dangerous and ill-informed” but will explain further after the sentencing today.

Stuff reports Moko: Hit, kicked, thrown, bitten, stomped and smothered – but prosecutors can’t prove couple murdered the boy

The downgrading to manslaughter charges has outraged New Zealand and, in one of the most public displays of contempt of court in New Zealand history, thousands will march on the court houses across all across the country tomorrow. Marches have even been organised in Australia. 

Attorney General Chris Finlayson has slammed all criticism of the plea deal as “dangerous and ill-informed”. He will explain the decision “in words of one syllable” after tomorrow’s sentencing.

The Solicitor-General provides prosecution guidelines which Crown solicitors must follow, Finlayson says, the decision to drop a murder charge was signed off by Solicitor-General Una Jagose.

There will be a lot of interest in the sentence. Courts of New Zealand says this in the introduction to Sentencing:

Imposing a sentence (the punishment given to an offender) can be one of the most exacting tasks undertaken by a judge. By law sentences must reflect a number of considerations, some of which may be in conflict.[1] Some of the most important considerations are:

  • the seriousness of the offending
  • the interests of the victim
  • consistency with sentences imposed for similar offending
  • the personal circumstances of the offender

On manslaughter sentencing:

There are some offences for which the Court of Appeal has considered it inappropriate to prescribe a sentencing range.

One example of this is manslaughter – the maximum penalty for manslaughter is life imprisonment. The worst cases of manslaughter are near to murder and can attract very severe sentences of imprisonment.

But a conviction for manslaughter may also result where someone causes the death of another person by accident, without intending any harm, meaning that sentence of imprisonment may be inappropriate.

Given the wide range of circumstances that can all fall within “manslaughter”, it is not possible to provide a single guideline that addresses all cases.

In sentencing for manslaughter Judges take guidance instead from earlier cases involving manslaughter of a generally similar kind.

Without knowing all the details of the obviously horrific treatment of Moko that resulted in his death, this crime must rate near or at the higher end of the scale of severity.