I strongly recommend people read the full sentencing notes of Justice Mander in R vs Tarrant. At the risk of sounding gushing, they are a judicial masterpiece.
It is not an easy read at first. It is very hard going reading the facts of the massacre. There are essentially four parts to it:
- The facts – Justice Mander describes what Tarrant did, who he killed and wounded in the order he did it. This part is pretty awful, but it brings home how absolutely cold hearted and monstrous the massacre was.
- The victims. Justice Mander spends a paragraph on each victim and turns them from names into people for those of us who didn’t know them. The 13 year old without a dad, the software engineer, the physician, the sportsman, the taxi driver, the student, the welder, the dentist, the farmer, the pilot, the geologist, the 14 year old, the three year old etc etc. Justice Mander pays tribute to all of them.
- The survivors (also victims). Justice Mander also deals with their stories and the horror they carry with them.
- Tarrant. Mander sums Tarrant up as empty of any empathy for his victims and entirely self-centered. A deeply impaired person who has hatred of people he sees as different to him.
- The sentencing. Justice Mander has done such a thorough job of considering all the options around whether or not the sentence should be life without parole, that I’d say any potential appeal is doomed to failure. He has made sure this decision is watertight. He masterly dismissed the argument that a guilty plea means he should avoid a LWOP sentence saying “the massacre of so many people and that was undertaken in an attempt to kill so many more, cannot be moderated to any lesser finite sentence because the offender has finally faced the inevitability of his conviction and pleaded guilty”. Very cleverly he instead applies a discount for the guilty plea to the attempted murder sentencing, so it can’t be argued no provision was made for the guilty plea. A strike of genius. And then the summary “Parliament has provided a sanction for such crimes in the form of a life sentence without parole that can only be imposed in the case of the very worst murders. Its use must be taken to have been intended only when the circumstances clearly warrant its imposition. The unavoidable rhetorical question in sentencing you today is, if not here, then when?” And that leads to the Life Without Parole decision.
- Finally is what is almost farcial, but necessary, Justice Mander ensures strict compliance with the law by issuing a first strike warning to Tarrant. Justice Mander recognises it is an empty exercise in this case, but makes sure again the sentencing is watertight.
One part I do want to quote is this:
It is difficult to look beyond the wicked nature of each murder and the pain and suffering you have caused to individual victims, to their families and loved ones.
However, you are not only a murderer but a terrorist.
Your actions go further than demonstrating contempt for the sanctity of life. In the name of a political or ideological cause, you sought to violently intimidate the community, and coerce the country’s peaceable form of government and social order — essentially to attack New Zealand’s way of life.
The beliefs upon which you rely to justify your crimes are rooted in religious and ethnic antipathy and intolerance. 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.
New Zealand rightly places great value on its diverse and culturally rich
community. It recognises the contributions made by people of many racial and ethnic backgrounds and of varied faiths and cultures. Extremist beliefs and ideologies that seek to promote violence and hate are anathema to the values of acceptance, tolerance and mutual respect upon which our inclusive society is based and which this country strives to maintain. Where warped and malignant ideology manifests itself in such violence and causes such appalling harm, it is incumbent on the Court to respond in a way that decisively rejects such vicious malevolence.
The vicious malevolence will never leave prison alive. Let’s remember what he did, but forget all about him.