Christchurch shootings accused could get life without parole - Law Society

6:19 pm on 3 April 2019

A sentence of life without parole appears to be available to the court if the man accused of the Christchurch mosque shootings is convicted, says the Law Society.

Brenton Tarrant is led into the dock in his first appearance for murder, following the deadly terror attacks on two Christchurch mosques.

The accused killer in his first court appearance charged with murder. Photo: Screenshot

New Zealand Law Society Criminal Law Committee member Simon Shamy said anyone convicted of murder was sentenced to life in prison with a non-parole period.

He said this was often a 10-year non-parole period, but theoretically there was no limit.

"You have to [then] spend 10 years in prison before you can apply for parole," Mr Shamy said.

"And the Parole Board will, after 10 years, decide whether you're safe and let out, or not. And they let you out after 10 years, or 12, or 14, or however many.

"The court ... can impose a minimum non-parole period of 60 years, or never, no parole ever.

"And that's up to the sentencing judge."

The accused in this case has appeared in court once in Christchurch District Court, to face one charge of murder.

He has been remanded in custody without plea until Friday when he will appear by audio-visual link in the High Court at Christchurch.

Police are expected to lay more charges.

Life without parole

The sentence has never been imposed by a New Zealand court.

In a small number of cases, the Crown has argued for life to mean life - in which a prisoner remains in jail until they die.

In a case last month, Paul Wilson was sentenced to life in jail with a minimum non-parole period of 28 years.

The longest sentence imposed by a New Zealand court is life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 30 years for the triple killings at an Auckland RSA in 2001.

New Zealand's longest serving prisoner is Alfred Thomas Vincent, who has been in jail since 1968 for indecently assaulting five boys.