Missed opportunities to deradicalise LynnMall attacker, says criminologist

7:21 am on 6 September 2021

A criminologist who deemed the LynnMall attacker 'low risk' in 2018 believes there were missed opportunities to steer him away from violent extremism.

A police officer outside Countdown, LynnMall, following a terrorist attack on 2 September, 2021

A police officer outside Countdown LynnMall in New Lynn following the terrorist attack on 2 September. Photo: Getty Images

Ahamed Samsudeen was described as a high risk to the community when he was sentenced in July for possessing Islamic State propaganda - with the means and motivation to commit violent acts.

However three years earlier, Australian National University criminologist Dr Clarke Jones told the High Court Ahamed didn't appear to be violent and didn't fit the profile of a young Muslim person who had been radicalised.

At the time he suggested "a carefully designed, culturally sensitive and closely supervised intervention programme in the Auckland Muslim community."

Now, he said it was unclear how much rehabilitation actually took place.

"People can change, sometimes quickly, sometimes over a longer period of time. But back in 2018, we didn't think that he was violent," he explained.

At the time Ahamed appeared to feel marginalised and disconnected, Clarke said, like he couldn't "get his foot up" in society.

"Some of the material he was reading was was of concern and he had fairly rigid views around around religion and around around life in general. But he'd also had some experience in difficult times and was, I would argue, deeply depressed."

In the High Court, Samsudeen had admitted two charges of using a document for pecuniary advantage, two charges of knowingly distributing restricted material and one charge of failing to assist the police in their exercise of a search power.

Another expert was consulted - forensic psychiatrist Dr Jeremy Skipworth - who echoed Clarke' concerns.

"Doctor Skipworth said that any form of home detention would tend to further exacerbate your mental health concerns, and that your successful community reintegration is likely to be assisted by cornerstones, such as stable housing, personal support, appropriate employment and medical care," reads Justice Wylie's sentencing notes.

Justice Wylie imposed a sentence of supervision, with special conditions including a psychological assessment and a rehabilitation programme with a service called Just Community.

Jones said he really would like to know more about what support Samsudeen was actually given in Corrections.

"Was he responsive to that treatment, if he was receiving any treatment at all, or was the focus more on on the security side and the monitoring and the surveillance?"

Asked if the terrorist had enough support to 'get better', Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said there'd been attempts to change the man's mind - and none of them were successful.

But in a family statement released after the attack, Samsudeen's brother said he sometimes listened.

"He would hang up the phone on us when we told him to forget about all of the issues he was obsessed with. Then he would call us back again himself when he realised he was wrong. Aathil was wrong again [on Friday]. Of course we feel very sad that he could not be saved. The prisons and the situation was hard on him and he did not have any support. He told us he was assaulted there."

Clarke said, "I would say that we haven't got the balance right. In this case there was too much focus on the counter terrorism or counter violent extremism narrative, rather than actually getting to the core of what what was wrong with Mr Samsudeen."

"We can always improve the way we do things to have have greater preventative sort of mechanisms within government, police and communities."

Clarke said what happened in LynnMall was a tragedy and a terrible situation.

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