3 Mar 2023

Coroner's inquest into mosque terrorist attack delayed

3:21 pm on 3 March 2023
Members of the Muslim community arrive at the Al Noor mosque on the 15 March 2020, the anniversary of the terror attack.

The inquiry into the 2019 attacks was to begin in May. Photo: AFP / Sanka Vidanagama / NurPhoto

The coronial inquiry into the deaths of 51 people killed in the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack has been delayed, due to the amount of evidence being prepared.

The inquest was due to be heard 15 May to 9 June, with families and victims given access to previously unavailable information.

Coroner Brigette Windley said the inquest into the 15 March 2019 terrorist attack at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre was unprecedented in New Zealand in terms of both scale and scope.

But in a decision released today, Windley said while all counsel had been working diligently and productively, the volume of information needed to be disclosed was putting increasing pressure on parties to keep the May hearing on track.

The inquest so far involves more than 120 interest parties (and growing) and 12 experts and an extensive body of complex digital and documentary evidence.

Windley said given the concerns she invited counsel submissions on the viability of the May date.

Most agencies involved expressed a willingness to proceed, albeit with some concerns, while other submissions strongly favoured adjournment, she said.

"Some counsel went as far as saying that the fixture was 'no longer viable' or would breach natural justice requirements, while others simply expressed concern about the level of work still required."

Many of the interested parties expressed dismay and frustration about the possibility of further delay, but ultimately supported an adjournment if it was necessary to ensure that the inquiry could properly and fully explore the issues.

Windley said the magnitude of the tragedy demands an appropriately thorough coronial response.

"And it is vitally important that this Inquiry is conducted in a manner that retains its integrity and maintains trust and confidence in the process.

"Regrettably… I am now in a position of having to choose between further delay and a risk the inquiry may proceed without doing justice to those who lost their lives and, perhaps, without learning all the lessons for saving lives in the future which this tragedy may hold.

"While it may be of little comfort, I reiterate my firm commitment to a fair and robust process that involves a full and proper exploration of all the important issues for inquiry.''

She said the decision to adjourn had not been arrived at lightly and it would be an unwelcome delay for many.

A new date has yet to be determined.

By the numbers (bullet points provided by Ministry of Justice):

  • 12 in scope issues for the inquiry. The First Phase inquest will address nine related to the events of the day of the attack.
  • 74 Minutes or decisions since the decision on the scope of the inquiry in April 2022.
  • There are more than 120 Interested parties to the inquiry, a number which is still increasing.
  • There have been 19 separate information disclosures, including five sensitive information disclosures.
  • The inquiry has reviewed over 7500 documents from the Police IMT file alone.
  • Information from other agencies includes 737 radio communications, 32 emergency calls and 100 audio recordings from the Emergency Operations Centre.
  • Just one tranche of digital exhibits required review of about 20,000 photographs, some 180 emergency calls, more than 2300 radio communications, and CCTV from more than 120 CCTV cameras, totalling more than 145 hours of footage. More than 7300 social media pages, 750 images, 250 videos and more than 580 emails also needed review.

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