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Mosque Shooter's Sentence Is a First for New Zealand

Brenton Harrison Tarrant sentenced to life without possibility of parole
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 27, 2020 1:56 AM CDT

(Newser) – The white supremacist who slaughtered 51 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the first time a court in the country had sentenced someone to prison for the remainder of their life, the AP reports. Judge Cameron Mander said the crimes committed by 29-year-old Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant were so wicked that a lifetime in jail could not begin to atone for them. He said they had caused enormous loss and hurt and stemmed from a warped and malignant ideology. “Your actions were inhuman,” Mander said. “You deliberately killed a 3-year-old infant by shooting him in the head as he clung to the leg of his father.” The March 2019 attacks targeting people praying at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch shocked New Zealand and prompted new laws banning the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons.

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During the four-day sentencing hearing, 90 survivors and family members recounted the horror of that day and the trauma they continue to feel. Tarrant showed little emotion during the proceedings. He watched the speakers, occasionally giving a small nod or covering his mouth as he laughed at jokes, often made at his expense. Tarrant in March pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism, reversing his earlier not guilty pleas. He fired his lawyers and told the judge he didn’t wish to speak at his sentencing. A standby lawyer appointed by the court told the judge that Tarrant did not oppose the maximum sentence. New Zealand abolished the death penalty for murder in 1961. Since then, the longest non-parole sentence that has been handed down had been 30 years for a triple murder.

(Read more New Zealand mosque shootings stories.)

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