The Christchurch terrorist attack royal commission report

The report is here. Overall it looks like a sober and sensible analysis of the terrorist attack. The conclusion is this particular attack was probably not stoppable, but that there are many areas where agencies could have done better.

I was particularly pleased with their section on hate speech laws where they stated:

Section 131 of the Human Rights Act 1993, which criminalises certain types of hate speech, is not fit for purpose. The section as written unacceptably impinges on the right of freedom of expression. The words “excite hostility against or bring into contempt” set a low liability threshold. Accordingly it has invited rewriting by the courts, but in a way that has resulted in considerable uncertainty. More generally it does not provide a credible foundation for prosecution.

I agree the current threshold is too low and is an unacceptable infringement of the right of freedom of expression.

We recommend that the Government:

Repeal section 131 of the Human Rights Act 1993 and insert a provision in the Crimes Act 1961 for an offence of inciting racial or religious disharmony, based on an intent to stir up, maintain or normalise hatred, through threatening, abusive or insulting communication with protected characteristics that include religious affiliation.

A threshold of inciting hatred is better than the current threshold of exciting hostility. Also a key aspect of the proposed new law is that there must be an intent to incite hatred, which should mean that prosecutions under such a law would be very hard to bring.

The devil will be in the detail, but what the Royal Commission is proposing seems far better than what the Government was proposing.

I’ll post later in the week on the other recommendations.

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