The Government is seeking to expand New Zealand’s counter-terrorism legislation following the devastating attacks on the Christchurch mosque in 2019 and the New Lynn mall last year.
Amendments to the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 and the Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Act 2019 will allow the Government to remove ambiguity that might have allowed Brenton Tarrant’s, the man behind the mosque attack, designation as a terrorist to expire.
When a terrorist is imprisoned, the amendments would require the Prime Minister to review the designation every three years to assess whether it is justified.
Expiry of the designation, which under the Act is after three years unless renewed, would be paused and the designation would remain in place while the person was imprisoned until the review was completed.
It also included a refusal to entertain applications to revoke a designation made on the grounds that “the entity is no longer involved in any way in the carrying out of terrorist acts”.
While designations could be renewed under the current legislation, it had so far been unclear how the renewal and revocation processes applied to terrorists in prison.
Tarrant was jailed for life without parole in August, 2020 for murdering 51 Muslims at two Christchurch mosques on March 15, 2019.
He was designated as a terrorist entity on August 27, 2020 – meaning his three-year designation would expire next year, if it wasn’t renewed.
“These amendments provide appropriate safeguards to ensure the designation scheme is effective in addressing the threat of further terrorist acts,” Allan said.
“The proposed changes to the designation and control order schemes are in line with this Government’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on the Christchurch masjidain.”
Cabinet has also agreed on changes to control orders – civil orders intended to prevent high-risk individuals from engaging in terrorism by imposing various restrictions.
The changes have expanded the criteria so they could be applied to more people.
The changes included people who had received a conviction for objectionable publications that promote torture, extreme violence or cruelty, which is in addition to the current criteria that include a conviction for objectionable publications that promote terrorism.
It will include people sentenced to home detention and community-based sentences, as it is currently limited to sentences of imprisonment.
Greater judicial discretion would be allowed when setting control order restrictions to tailor them more appropriate to the risk posed.
Restrictions can limit a person’s movements, communications and activities; access to the internet, terrorist propaganda or chemicals; use of some financial tools, and more.
They might be required to remain at their home at certain times, to regularly report to an officer, submit to electronic monitoring and drug tests, and only attend a gun range with police present.
Name suppression requirements would also be made more flexible to establish an “appropriate balance” between preventing the glorification of terrorism and notifying the public that a known risk is being managed.
“While no law can ever stop a motivated terrorist from undertaking an attack, these changes will go a long way in preventing, disrupting and limiting their ability to do so,” Allan said.
A review of the control orders legislation would take place next year.
Almost all other parties had been consulted on the legislation. Its first reading would be next week before heading into select committee.