New Zealand judge sentences mosque shooter to life in prison, no parole
Brenton Tarrant, a 29-year-old Australian, admitted to 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one charge of committing a terrorist act during the 2019 shooting rampage at two Christchurch mosques.
WELLINGTON – A New Zealand court sentenced a man who killed 51 Muslim worshippers in the country’s deadliest shooting to life in prison without parole, the first time such a sentence has been handed down in the country.
White supremacist Brenton Tarrant, a 29-year-old Australian, admitted to 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one charge of committing a terrorist act during the 2019 shooting rampage at two Christchurch mosques which he livestreamed on Facebook.
High Court Judge Cameron Mander said in Christchurch on Thursday that a finite term would not be sufficient.
“Your crimes, however, are so wicked that even if you are detained until you die it will not exhaust the requirements of punishment and denunciation,” said Mander in handing down the sentence.
“As far as I can discern, you are empty of any empathy for your victims,” he said.
Tarrant, dressed in grey prison clothes and surrounded by guards, did not react to the sentence.
Prosecutors told the court earlier that Tarrant wanted to instill fear in those he described as invaders and that he carefully planned the attacks to cause maximum carnage.
“Today the legal procedures for this heinous crime has been done. No punishment will bring our loved ones back,” said Gamal Fouda, the Imam of Al Noor mosque which was targeted.
“Extremists are all the same. Whether they use religions, nationalism or any other ideology. All extremists, they represent hate. but we are here today. We respect love, compassion, Muslim and non-Muslim people of faith and of no faith.”
Tarrant, who represented himself during the hearings but did not make submissions, said through a lawyer in court on Thursday that he did not oppose the prosecution’s application for a life without parole sentence.
“The hatred that lies at the heart of your hostility to particular members of the community that you came to this country to murder has no place here - it has no place anywhere,” Mander said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was relieved that “that person will never see the light of day”.
“The trauma of 15 March is not easily healed but today I hope is the last where we have any cause to hear or utter the name of the terrorist behind it. His deserves to be a lifetime of complete and utter silence,” she said.
Ardern praised survivors and families of the victims who gave emotionally-charged statements in court this week, calling for Tarrant to be sentenced to life without parole.
“I want to acknowledge the strength of our Muslim community who shared their words in court over the past few days,” she said. “You relived the horrific events of March 15 to chronicle what happened that day and the pain it has left behind.”
“Nothing will take the pain away but I hope you felt the arms of New Zealand around you through this whole process, and I hope you continue to feel that through all the days that follow.”
The judge asked Tarrant before handing down the sentence if he had any comment. Tarrant just nodded when asked if he was aware he had the right to make submissions, but he did not speak.
Before Tarrant, triple-murderer William Bell was serving the longest sentence in New Zealand with a minimum non-parole prison term of 30 years for his 2001 crimes.