The man responsible for the Christchurch terror attacks will be liable for deportation but it is possible the Australian killer will never leave prison, let alone our shores.
Brenton Tarrant pleaded guilty to all the charges he faced during a hastily-arranged hearing in the High Court at Christchurch this morning.
He admitted murdering 51 people at two Christchurch mosques on March 15 last year, and also pleaded guilty to 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge of engaging in a terrorist act.
After being convicted by Justice Cameron Mander on each charge, the attention now turns to the 29-year-old’s sentencing – which will take place after the coronavirus-imposed court restrictions are eased.
Some, such as Dr Jarrod Gilbert, the Director of Criminal Justice at the University of Canterbury, have wondered if Tarrant would be the first person In New Zealand to be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
“I would have bet anything you like that this would have been our first sentence of life without parole. I wonder if his guilty plea reduces the likelihood of that,” he said in a tweet after the guilty pleas.
An Immigration New Zealand spokeswoman said the department was unable to comment specifically on this case and on whether Tarrant could be deported to Australia prior to the sentencing hearing.
But she did talk generally about deportation liability.
“An individual who is a New Zealand resident and is convicted of a criminal offence which is committed within 10 years of being granted residence, for which they receive a prison sentence of five years or more, is automatically liable for deportation.
“Australian citizens are granted a resident visa on arrival in New Zealand.”
The INZ spokeswoman said deportation proceedings for convicted criminals generally don’t occur until the person has completed their prison sentence.
Such offenders can, however, appeal against deportation liability on humanitarian grounds to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal.
The Herald’s requests for comment to Tarrant’s lawyers, Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson, have gone unanswered today.
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Tarrant continues to be held in a maximum-security cell at Paremoremo Prison near Auckland. He will next appear in court on May 1, when it’s expected a sentencing date will be set.
It remains unclear what sparked the mass shooter’s change in plea, but it automatically resulted in the scheduled June trial being vacated for the largest criminal prosecution in New Zealand history.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was disappointing the victims of the attacks couldn’t be in court today, but divulged she let out a massive sigh of relief when she heard of the guilty pleas.
“Nothing will bring their loved ones back, but this is a small reprieve,” she said of the victims and their families.
Ardern said she will still refuse to speak the terrorist’s name.