3 Sep 2021

Terrorism attack: Crown files urgent court action to lift suppression orders

8:42 pm on 3 September 2021

The Crown is seeking the court's urgent lifting of the suppression orders which prevent the background of the terrorist responsible for the Auckland supermarket knife attack being made public, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The urgent application is being filed this evening.

The court action is the sequel to a terrorism incident at a Countdown supermarket at the LynnMall in New Lynn this afternoon.

During the incident a man armed with a knife injured six shoppers. All six have been transferred to hospital with three in a critical condition and one in a serious condition.

The man was shot dead by two police officers soon after the attack began.

At a media briefing this evening, Ardern said she wanted to share as much as she could about the attacker who was a Sri Lankan man who moved to New Zealand in 2011.

He had been under surveillance since 2016 because of his support for a violent ideology inspired by the Islamic State.

Ardern said by law the man could not be kept in prison, so he was being constantly monitored instead.

The man was tracked so closely by a surveillance and tactical team this afternoon that the police shot him within 60 seconds of the attack starting.

The reasons he is known to agencies is subject to suppression orders, but Ardern said it was her view that it was in the public interest to share as much information as possible.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told Checkpoint this evening it was frustrating not all the details of the attacker could be revealed because of the court order.

He said he knew nothing about the individual beforehand but added, from his experience in government, the number of people under such level of police surveillance could be counted "on less than the fingers on one hand".

"What's frustrating for all of us who have just listened to the Prime Minister and the police commissioner, is that they were constrained from sharing all of the information that they know about this individual, because of a court order, and I understand that the Prime Minister of all people have to live under the law, and cannot go outside the law.

"But what is clear about it is that this person is an ideologically-motivated terrorist... It's appalling that he could cause so much hurt in the space of a minute, just with a knife. But I guess the police interceded as quickly as they were able and ultimately, he has paid the price of his actions.

"This person, from the information that the Prime Minister has given us, was obviously a hate-filled person whose views were causing huge alarm to the police, but who had not acted in a way that the law enabled him to be kept them custody.

"Now, we're having this bit of this debate a little bit over hate speech at the moment… people saying 'people's views are their views, and they're allowed to express their views'.

"But people like this who obviously expressed views filled with hatred, based on his ideology, the fact that you can't act against them, would seem to be a potential gap in our law."

"I'm sure as well as the Independent Police Complaints Authority Investigation and the Coroner's investigation, Parliament will want to look pretty closely at whether the law is adequate - albeit in a democratic society such as we have - when a person that constitutes a risk so severe that he's kept under 24/7 surveillance, there can't be action against him.

"I think that's going to exercise the minds at Parliament in the months to come."

Goff said he would not expect as mayor to be informed by police about particular individuals that constitute a risk.

"We regrettably have individuals like this and the individual that attacked the mosques in Christchurch. It's not a common activity... and most of us just can't understand the venom and the hatred that can be held in a person's mind, that motivates them to act like that," he said.

"But does that mean that all of us are unsafe in our community? No, New Zealand remains one of the safer communities around the world."

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