Two reports and an apology

09/12/2020

It is natural to seek to determine who is responsible when an atrocity has occurred and to find someone to blame.

That is not always possible.

The report from the Royal Commission on the Christchurch Mosque murders found several government agencies could have done better but did not point the finger at any individuals.

However, Judith Collins is correct to point out who was responsible:

. . .“The atrocities committed on March 15, 2019 were the actions of an evil terrorist designed to spread fear and silence those who did not share his world view. But the actions of New Zealanders since then in denouncing him and what he stood for is proof that he failed. . . 

“The Opposition stands ready to work constructively with the Government to ensure sure we learn from this event and make New Zealand a safer place for all five million of us.

“Ultimately, the person responsible is the one serving a life sentence without parole. But it appears certain systems within Government could have, and should have, performed better.

Brenton Tarrant admitted committing the crimes. We will never know who the individuals in the government agencies were whose work fell short of what should have been required.

But we need to know that the required changes to fix the shortcomings are made.

“In principle, we support strengthening the role of our security and intelligence agencies but we must tread carefully to safeguard New Zealanders’ rights and liberties.

“We cannot end up sacrificing our liberal democracy, otherwise we will end up with the sort of New Zealand this terrorist was trying to create.

Among those rights and liberties are freedom of speech which must be protected.

“It is clear this terrorist should never have had a gun license and we support moves by the police to improve training and firearms licence vetting.

“But more needs to be done to get guns out of the hands of criminals, and National’s proposed Firearms Prohibition Orders are a crucial tool that we need in this fight.

“We have shown that, as a nation, we are not prepared to give into fear, we are not prepared to tolerate extreme hate, and we are not prepared to let anything like the wickedness that took place on March 15 ever happen in New Zealand again.”

No laws can ever make a country and its population 100% safe.

In addressing the shortcomings that enabled the March 15 attacks to happen the government must make sure it doesn’t over react and mistake excessive restrictions for safety.

The Royal Commission report was released yesterday. Another report has yet to be made public:

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins must immediately release the Roche/Simpson review report into our border testing systems, National’s Covid-19 Recovery spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

The Government commissioned this report under urgency in late August after its border testing systems failed spectacularly, and Chris Hipkins told Parliament today a copy of the report was sent to him on 30 September.

“The report should have been released before the election – but as we learned today in Parliament, the Government has simply sat on the report since then. The Minister would not even commit today in Parliament to releasing the report before Christmas,” Mr Bishop says.

“This is simply unacceptable. As the Minister himself said when announcing the report, ‘the Group’s formation represents another key step in our ongoing battle against Covid-19. As has been our approach from the start, we are continuously reviewing our systems and finding ways to improve. That approach will continue’.

“Getting our border response right is critical for the future of this country. With businesses closing down and Kiwis losing their jobs, we can’t afford to waste time not considering this report.”

It was also revealed in Parliament today that the Ministry of Health disagrees with elements of the report.

“The suspicion must be that the Ministry has spent the time since 30 September fighting to stop the report being released and trying to change the findings of the independent panel.

“There is now even more reason for the report to be released without any changes that may be insisted on by the Ministry of Health. The Government appointed these independent reviewers and the public deserves to see their findings.”

The mosque murders were atrocious but another terror attack is a remote possibility. Community transmission of Covid-19 owing to holes in the border is much more likely.

Whether or not the MoH agrees with the report, the review was done by independent people and not only do we have a right to know what their findings are, we need to know so we can be be sure that any issues it highlights are addressed.

While we await the release of the report, we have had an apology:

Parliament’s Speaker Trevor Mallard has apologised for comments he made last year claiming a rapist was working on the premises.

He made the remarks on RNZ shortly after the release of a report which revealed frequent bullying and harassment at Parliament.

Mallard later told reporters a staffer had been stood down and a “threat to the safety of women” removed.

In a statement released today, Mallard said it was “incorrect” of him to give the impression the man had been accused of rape “as that term is defined in the Crimes Act 1961”.

Mallard had provided a personal apology to the man for the “distress and humiliation” caused to the worker and his family, the statement said.

“Both parties consider this matter is now closed and no further comment will be made.” . . 

There is no mention of compensation for the worker who lost his job and we’re very unlikely to find out how much he received.

It will have been made by Parliamentary Services which is not subject to Official Information Act requirements.

One report has been released, another has not and we’ll almost certainly never know how much Mallard’s loose lips have cost us. And quelle surprise, his apology was announced when all attention was on the Royal Commission’s report. Given this is an open and transparent government, that would just be an unfortunate coincidence, wouldn’t it?


Life without parole

27/08/2020

Brenton Tarrant has been sentenced to life without parole:

Terrorist gunman Brenton Harrison Tarrant has accepted his fate and will spend all his remaining years in prison, with no chance of ever being released. …

Justice Mander said he had “listened with sadness” to those who had read their victim impact statements in court during the four-day sentencing hearing. He summarised their views and situations, and referred to kind, forgiving, fine people being killed. 

He said he had little doubt Tarrant had come to New Zealand to target the Muslim community. He had travelled in Europe and developed deep-seated views about the “cultural displacement” of Europeans by migrants.  . .

“You remain empty of any empathy for the victims. You remain detached and appear entirely self-centred,” Justice Mander said. . .

He rejected the idea of any credit for Tarrant’s guilty pleas, and his claimed change of views. He noted Tarrant remained entirely self-absorbed and had offered no apology or public acknowledgement.

His regret seemed centred on the waste of his own life . . .

Tarrant’s is the face of evil. This week he had to face the victims of his crime.

Many of them forgave him, showing the face of good.


How many more out there?

17/06/2020

Very soon after the Christchurch mosque massacres, people started asking how Brenton Tarrant had been able to obtain a gun licence. More than a year later, it’s found he shouldn’t have:

The March 15 terrorist was wrongly granted a firearms licence due to a string of police failures, sources have told Stuff.

The terrorist, who pleaded guilty to New Zealand’s worst mass shooting in March, was not properly inspected by police vetting staff when he applied for a firearms licence in 2017.

Stuff has been told that, among other errors, police failed to interview a family member as required, instead relying on two men who met the terrorist through an internet chatroom. 

More than a year on from the March 15 terror attack, police insiders say the error was the product of a long neglected police firearms system that did not have the resources to properly handle applications. 

“This was avoidable. If police had addressed some of the issues with administering firearms years ago, this could have been avoided,” a source said. . .

The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO) highlighted shortcomings in the system in a submission to the Royal Commission into the killings last year:

COLFO chair Michael Dowling said it was clear that the alleged perpetrator should never have been deemed a ‘fit and proper’ person to own the guns and large capacity magazines used in the attack.

“He was able to slip through gaps created by a system chronically stretched by poor resourcing and funding, as well as a lack of expertise and knowledge.” . . 

“We don’t know the background checks into Tarrant, but we do know he had travelled to unusual locations internationally, was not a New Zealand resident for long and was not involved with firearms as a hobby.

“Despite this, Tarrant applied for, and received, his firearms licence in 2017.

“This raises serious concerns for vetting procedures and whether the 2010 police vetting guide was adhered to during Tarrant’s licencing process. We understand that his referees had never met him in person, nor did they include a family member.” . . 

Not having the resources to handle applications properly might be an excuse for delays, it’s not an excuse for failing to follow the correct procedure and for granting a licence to someone who so obviously didn’t meet the required criteria.

This appalling systems failure led to the death of 51 people and injuries to several more.

It also led to the contentious and expensive gun buy-back scheme that may have done no more than take firearms from innocent people and left more with criminals.

Yesterday we learned that another systems failure led to two people with Covid-19 being grant compassionate leave from managed isolation after arriving from the UK:

Two Kiwi women – one in her 30s and one in her 40s – arrived on June 7 on an Air New Zealand flight from Brisbane, before staying at the Novotel Auckland Ellerslie hotel in managed isolation.

The pair was given special dispensation to leave isolation on June 13 to support grieving family after a parent’s death in Wellington. Officials were adamant the pair travelled in a private car and did not use public facilities during their journey.

Bloomfield confirmed the pair was not tested for Covid-19 before being allowed to leave the Novotel in Auckland, but had complied with the terms of their special dispensation and underwent testing in Wellington. 

The women are now in self-isolation in the Hutt Valley.

“The relative died quite quickly, the exemption was granted and the plan was approved,” Bloomfield said.

“Again, I just want to support the efforts that these women have gone to abide by the agreed plan,” Bloomfield said. 

But the emergence of the two cases has sparked an immediate change in policy, with the Government temporarily suspending all compassionate exemptions at the border.

It would only be reinstated once the Government had confidence in the system. . .

Yesterday we also learned that two teenagers ran away from authorities after being allowed special dispensation from Covid-19 related quarantine to attend a funeral in Hamilton.

They have since been located and one is in managed isolation while the other is in an agreed community arrangement, director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed this afternoon.

He did not know how many days their whereabouts were unknown. . . 

Speaking to Heather Du-Plessis Allan on Newstalk ZB Tuesday evening, Health Minister David Clark did not seem to know about the runaway pair.

“I’m not aware of the details of that case…I have not had a briefing on that, I will seek a briefing on that.”

Clark said he was disappointed to see that the measures he thought were put in place to prevent another outbreak didn’t appear to be.

“If it is as you described it, then it underscores my request to suspend compassionate exemptions until we ensure that the system is working as intended.” . . 

Working as intended?

How hard is it to test people when they arrive and again before they are permitted to leave isolation or quarantine?

No wonder National’s health spokesman Michael Woodhouse is questioning whether the Ministry of Health is following its own protocols:

. . . Both cases recently arrived from the United Kingdom and left managed isolation on compassionate grounds after six days with no Covid-19 test. However compassionate leave to exit managed isolation can only be given after seven days and a negative test according to guidance from the Ministry dated 9 June.

“Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield claimed in the press conference that going forward they will now test on exit in case of compassionate grounds, but the Ministry of Health website said this was already the case and the ministry simply failed to fulfil its own procedures.

“It’s fair to expect there will still be the occasional case of Covid-19 pop up as we recover from the past few months, but we need to be positive that the Government has the appropriate protocols in place to identify and trace these cases so they don’t become a bigger cluster.

“New Zealanders have done the hard yards over recent months in flattening the curve of Covid-19, the Government can’t let this hard work go to waste due to sloppy lapses in procedure.” 

Covid-19 spread through New Zealand because our borders weren’t closed soon enough and people who came in were trusted to self-isolate themselves.

When the disease is still rife in so many other countries it is not surprising that people coming in to New Zealand have brought it with them.

But it is sheer incompetence that allowed people to have compassionate leave without being tested and let a couple of teens to run away after a funeral.

Tackling Covid-19 has come at a huge cost. Opening the border is necessary to help with the recovery and for compassionate reasons but it must be done in a way that doesn’t risk the spread of disease here.

The answer isn’t denying compassionate leave to other innocent people, it’s following the necessary protocols to test people, and get the result of the tests, before allowing that leave.

Police and health are two of the basic public services we should all be able to trust and that requires systems we can all have confidence in.

But the serious failures in these cases undermines confidence and raise another very big question: how many other people have been given gun licenses who shouldn’t have and how many others have come through the border and been let out of isolation or quarantine without testing for Covid-19?


Terrorist pleads guilty

26/03/2020

The man charged with the Christchurch mosque attacks has pleaded guilty:

At the High Court in Christchurch, Brenton Tarrant admitted 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Until today he had denied all of the charges and was scheduled to stand trial in June. The guilty plea means he has become New Zealand’s first convicted terrorist.

The 29-year-old showed no emotion as he appeared via audio visual link in the High Court at around 10am.

No explanation for Tarrant’s change of heart was given during today’s hearing. He has been remanded in custody until May. . . 

This will save the taxpayer the cost, courts the time and most importantly the families and friends of those killed the distress of a prolonged defended trial.

The Prime Minister decided she would not say Tarrant’s name. That was a powerful political statement but it does not, and should not, fetter the media.

The names of criminals should be made public unless the court makes a suppression order.

Tarrant has pleaded guilty to the horrific slaughter of innocent people and his name should be associated with his crime.


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