Following the news on the New Zealand Mosque attack, the mosque killer, Brenton Tarrant, faces an ‘unprecedented’ sentence that will bar him from ever applying for a release but could yet dodge terror charges, legal experts say.
In New Zealand, any one guilty of murder usually comes with a minimum of 10 years in jail before possible parole. Brenton Tarrant has been charged with one initial count of murder over the mass shootings that killed 50 people in the southern city of Christchurch and faces life in prison.
It can be said that Brenton’s alleged crimes were so extreme that they could warrant the heaviest sentence by the judge since the abolition of the death penalty in 1961.
But one academic said prosecutors may shy away from terror charges – despite Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern labeling the massacre an act of terrorism.
Simon Cullen, a criminal lawyer told AFP that: “He may be sentenced to imprisonment without parole. There is a very significant possibility.
“This would seem to be… the type of situation that may well attract consideration of that type of sentence.”
The longest-ever murder sentence imposed in New Zealand was in 2001 when a judge sentenced William Bell to life imprisonment with a 30-year minimum term for a triple murder.
Bill Hodge, a criminal procedure expert in the University of Auckland, said even if the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern labeled the massacre an act of terrorism, prosecutors may shy away from terror charges.
The Terrorism Suppression Act was only introduced in 2002, after the US 9/11 attacks and is untested in the courts.
Hodge speaking with AFP said: “We haven’t used our terrorism laws previously and the laws are designed to inhibit or prosecute those involved with groups and financing and publications and the like.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to use statues that have not been used previously when the Crimes Act – murder, attempted murder, manslaughter – are perfectly functional and well-understood.
“It has not been tested in the appeal procedure. Appeals courts point out where the problems might be.’
“While 50 people were killed in the rampage, police have so far charged Tarrant with one count of murder. This is not unusual in New Zealand, with the first alleged offence used as a ‘holding’ charge as police carry out their investigation.”