New Zealand Judge Sentences Mosque Shooter to Life Without Parole

Brenton Harrison Tarrant killed 51 people on March 15, 2019. Photo: TVNZ

Rabat – A New Zealand judge has imposed the maximum available sentence on 29-year-old mosque shooter Brenton Harrison Tarrant. 

Tarrant is responsible for the country’s worst-ever mass shooting on March 15, 2019, killing 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques. 

Judge Cameron Mander sentenced the Australian terrorist to life without parole. This is the first time the sentence has been imposed in New Zealand. 

Tarrant pleaded guilty in New Zealand’s courts earlier this year to the charges brought against him as the shooter of two mosques in Christchurch. He is convicted of 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder, and one charge of committing a terrorist act during the rampage. 

While passing down his sentence, Judge Mander condemned Tarrant’s actions, saying his crimes were so wicked that a lifetime in jail could not begin to atone for them.

“Your crimes are so wicked that even if you are detained until you die it will not exhaust the requirements of punishment and denunciation,” Mander said.

“As far as I can discern, you are empty of any empathy for your victims.”

During opening statements on Monday, prosecutors told the court that Tarrant wanted to create fear among immigrants and had been planning the attacks for a long time. Throughout the four-day sentencing hearing, 90 survivors and family members recounted the horror of that day and the trauma they continue to feel.

Tarrant told the judge that he did not wish to speak at the hearing. The killer had been representing himself, as he had earlier fired his lawyers, though the courts appointed a standby lawyer. 

The appointed lawyer told the judge that Tarrant did not oppose a sentence of life without parole. Dressed in grey prison clothes and surrounded by guards, Tarrant did not react to the sentence.

Upon hearing the announcement of Tarrant’s severe sentence, survivors of the shootings raised hands and fists in celebration. Outside the New Zealand court building, they greeted supporters waving signs and carrying roses in solidarity for those who had fallen victim to the mosque shooter.

The March 2019 attacks specifically targeting worshippers praying at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques shocked the country. New Zealand’s government took swift action in the wake of the mosque shooter’s destruction, establishing new laws banning the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons. 

They also prompted global changes to social media protocols after the gunman live-streamed his terror attack on Facebook.