Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh during the sentencing hearing for Christchurch mosque gunman Brenton Tarrant at Christchurch High Court in August , 2020 in Christchurch

The Government unveiled new anti-terrorism legislation yesterday partly prompted, it seems, by the original terrorism designation of the Christchurch mosque gunman having expired in August.

The new legislation would ease the way for the redesignation of Brenton Tarrant as a terrorist but would also open up the possibility that Counterspin Media hosts Kelvyn Alp and Hannah Spierer could be designated.

(A spokesperson for the Minister said: Given the pair have been charged for distributing offensive material relating to sharing the March 15 livestream, they would have already been eligible for a control order, as a conviction for objectionable material relating to terrorism is already included in the legislation. While this would make them eligible, but they would still need to meet the second part of the eligibility criteria, where a judge would have to determine whether they post a “real risk” of carrying out terrorism-related activities. This is a high bar to meet and would involve psychological assessments. What is being added to the criteria is a conviction for objectionable material containing torture, extreme violence and cruelty.)

Counterspin is a conspiracy laden telegram channel linked to the American conspiracist Alex Jones.

Alp and Spierer were high-profile cheerleaders for the anti-vax occupation at Parliament earlier this year.

The pair currently face charges under the Films, Videos and Publications Act 1993, alleging they published a link to Tarrant’s video of the Christchurch shootings.

The Office of Film and Literature Classification has classified the video as “objectionable”, making it a criminal offence to distribute, copy, or exhibit the video, with potential penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment.

But under the proposals in the Bill introduced yesterday, the eligibility criteria for those who could be covered by a terrorism control order would expand to include if the person had received a conviction for objectionable publications that promoted torture, extreme violence, or cruelty.

Previously an objectionable publication was only one that promoted or encouraged an act of terrorism.

This would be in addition to the current criteria, which include a conviction for objectionable publications that promote terrorism;

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Terrorism Control Orders, which must be imposed by a Court, give the Police wide-ranging powers to monitor, control and limit the activities of the person subject to the order.

The 2019 legislation which established them was obviously designed with returning ISIS fighters in mind.

However, the mosque shootings and the stabbing incident in the Lynmall Countdown last year have shown that terrorists can be home-grown without any involvement in any overseas terrorist operation, such as ISIS in the Middle East.

“Following the terror attack in the Lynn Mall supermarket last year, where the individual responsible was known to be a threat to New Zealand’s security, Cabinet sought a review on how the control order regime could be strengthened,” Justice Minister  Kiri Allan said yesterday.

“The changes we are making will improve the effectiveness of the Control Orders Act and expand the criteria for high-risk individuals who can be covered by the restrictions, which limit their ability to undertake an attack.

“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.”

In another move aimed at Tarrant, the new legislation will make it explicit that Terrorist (correction: Designation Orders) Control Orders can be applied to people in prison.

“The terrorist designation scheme was initially brought in to stop New Zealanders from providing financial support to overseas terrorist groups in the wake of the September 11 attacks,” said Allan.

“Now, as the terrorism landscape has evolved, our laws need to also.

“For the first time since the scheme was introduced, we have a situation where a designated terrorist entity is imprisoned.

“Overseas, we have seen examples of how imprisoned terrorists continue to attempt to influence and incite others from behind bars.

“We are seeking to further reduce any ability for designated entities to be glorified or to support others in carrying out acts of terrorism.  

“These changes make it clear we will continue to push back to disrupt any efforts by designated individuals and groups to cause harm in our communities and against anyone who may attempt to support or glorify their horrific acts.”

The Terrorism Suppression Act will be amended so that in the case of a designated person who is imprisoned: 

  • no application for revocation of the designation can be made on the grounds that the entity is no longer involved in any way in the carrying out of terrorist acts;
  • expiry of the designation would be paused, and the designation remain in place, while the person is imprisoned; and
  • requiring the Prime Minister to review the designation every three years to determine whether it remains justified. In making this assessment, the Prime Minister must consider relevant information provided by the designated individual.

“These amendments provide appropriate safeguards to ensure the designation scheme is effective in addressing the threat of further terrorist acts,” Kiri 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.”

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Allan would not confirm that Tarrant had made an application for the terrorist order applying to him to be revoked.

But it expired in August anyway, and so far, the Government has not applied for an extension because it believes the current law would not allow it. (Correction: It expires in August 2023)

Officials said yesterday it was unclear how the renewal process applied to terrorists who were imprisoned, hence the new legislation.

Unusually, the Bill allows for retrospective applications.

“The horrific events of March 15 2019, and in New Lynn last year serve as a continuous reminder of the devastating consequences to individuals and communities from any terrorist attack. These are important amendments as we look to keep Aotearoa, New Zealand, as safe as possible,” Kiri Allan said.

Ironically in the Police application (correction:to designate him as a terrorist entity) for a Control Order for Tarrant, they noted that one of his objectives outlined in his (banned) manifesto was to cause political overreach in response to his actions, “which he perceives will cause a backlash and further the divide between European people and the ‘invaders’.”

Allan has consulted the Greens, National and ACT on the legislation and believes she has their support.