Christchurch shooter launches legal challenge to prison conditions, terrorist status

The mass shooter who killed 51 people in New Zealand in 2019 has launched a legal challenge seeking a review of his prison conditions and his status as a "terrorist entity".

Brenton Tarrant is serving a sentence of life imprisonment without parole for murdering 51 people and attempting to murder 40 others at Christchurch's Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre on March 15, 2019. He was also convicted under terrorism laws.

Tarrant has sought a judicial review, which is due to be heard by Justice Geoffrey Venning in the High Court at Auckland tomorrow morning.

Court records show the hearing is in chambers, which means it will not be open to the public. Media are, however, permitted to attend. The records show Tarrant intends to represent himself.

Tarrant, an Australian national, is the only person in New Zealand to be designated the status of terrorist.

A judicial review will be held at the High Court in Auckland on Thursday to clarify the issues Tarrant wishes to raise, New Zealand court authorities said.

Preliminary information provided to court officials indicate that Tarrant wishes the Court to review decisions made by the Department of Corrections about his prison conditions, and also his designation as a "terrorist entity" under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

The hearing will have no bearing on the outcome of the criminal case against Tarrant, or his conviction and sentence, the court said.

A judicial review is where a judge is asked to review legal action or a decision. The judge looks at whether the way the decision was made was in accordance with the law - but the judge won't usually decide whether the decision was the "right" decision.

Judicial reviews are always heard in the High Court and about 180 judicial reviews are heard every year.

A special "prison within a prison" is guarding Tarrant at a huge cost to the taxpayer.

The facility known as the Prisoners of Extreme Risk Unit was set up four months after the mosque shootings and holds Tarrant and two others.

"Tarrant is in his own wing and there are 18 guards rostered to monitor him," a source told the Herald last month.

"The other two are in the same wing but they are all dealt with individually, it's a costly exercise."

Corrections says the unit cost $2.77 million in the year to October 31, excluding the salaries of the six staff in its management group. That compares to Corrections spending about $1.1 billion in 2020 to guard close to 10,000 prisoners across all its facilities.

Tarrant's life in jail without parole was the first time in New Zealand's history such a term had been imposed - meaning he "will never see the light of day again", as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put it.

 - additional reporting Reuters

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