WELLINGTON, (AFP):- The gunman who murdered 51 people at two Christchurch mosques last year has been sentenced to life in prison without parole, the longest penalty ever imposed by a New Zealand court.
Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29, was sentenced by Justice Mander at the High Court in Christchurch on Thursday. It came after a harrowing four-day hearing in which more than 90 victims and families presented impact statements to the court.
“Your actions were inhuman,” Justice Mander said in his ruling. “You deliberately killed a three-year-old infant by shooting him in the head as he clung to the leg of his father. The terror you inflicted in the last few minutes of that small child’s life is but one instance of the pitiless cruelty that you exhibited throughout. There are countless more examples. You showed no mercy.”
Dressed in a grey prison tracksuit, Tarrant showed little emotion during his sentencing.
In March, Tarrant unexpectedly pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge of engaging in a terrorist act. His crimes were the most horrific in living memory in New Zealand and shocked the relatively peaceful South Pacific nation. The government swiftly banned the military style weapons and assault rifles used in the massacre.
On March 15 last year, the lone gunman drove to a mosque in central Christchurch and opened fire with modified semi-automatic weapons, live-streaming the shootings to social media. More than 40 worshippers were killed there. He then drove across town to a second mosque and continued his rampage.
Tarrant was apprehended by two police officers who ran his car off the road. He was on his way to another target, police said.
Tarrant fired his lawyers and represented himself in court, raising fears he might use the sentencing as a platform to promote hateful views. However, he chose not to speak at the sentencing.
Justice Mander said Tarrant had not shown any remorse or empathy for the people he killed and wounded or for the wider harm he caused. His crimes were “so wicked” that he could never atone for them, he said.
“Even if you are detained until you die, it will not exhaust the requirements of punishment and denunciation,” Justice Mander said. “I do not consider, however long the length of your incarceration during your lifetime, that it could, even in a modest way, atone for what you have done.”
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