A judge has allowed a man who threatened to car bomb Christchurch’s Al Noor and Linwood mosques to keep his name a secret for at least a year, saying he has “real and tangible prospects of rehabilitation”.
The 27-year-old, who was arrested just days before the second anniversary of the Christchurch terror attack and pleaded guilty in September, has won an appeal in the High Court following a long battle over his identity.
He has admitted repeatedly sharing the manifesto written by the March 15 gunman, and threatening to kill Muslims at the same two mosques that were targeted in that horrific massacre in 2019.
Four New Zealand media outlets, including TVNZ, have been fighting to publish his name, filing submissions asking for the defendant to be named in the public interest.
But while those arguments were initially successful, with the District Court putting an end to the man’s interim name suppression, that has now been reversed in the High Court.
Justice Rachel Dunningham released her reserved judgment this afternoon and found publication could damage the man’s rehabilitative prospects.
In a psychiatric report, the man claims he never intended to follow through on his threats and that he now accepts he needs to be de-radicalised.
The judge said the defendant had met with a member of the Christchurch Muslim community to apologise, and this was “tangible evidence” he had accepted responsibility for his actions.
"He has, in a tangible and public way, acknowledged responsibility for his offending and reached out to his victims,” the judgment reads.
“That is a remarkable step forward for someone who, on his own admission, had become steeped in online conspiracy theories and white supremacist websites to the detriment of engaging in any structured activities or social connections in the world outside.”
The interim name suppression will now extend to December 16, 2022 - one full year after the date the man is due to be sentenced.
It will then be reassessed in the District Court to check on his progress.
“It goes without saying that if [the man’s] rehabilitative prospects have not been realised, the risk assessment would change and the public interest would likely be served by publication,” Justice Dunningham wrote.
The judge added that there were “competing public interests” between knowing the identity of the offender and the importance of a successful rehabilitation.
“I accept that there is an interest in the victims knowing who the offender is, but I consider that is appropriately addressed through [his] expressed willingness to meet with other victims of his offending face-to-face to apologise for his actions,” she wrote.
The man will be sentenced on December 16.