Ter­ror­ist ad­mits guilt – Why?

The Press - - Front Page - Martin van Bey­nen martin.van­bey­nen@stuff.co.nz

Un­usual events over the past two weeks might have prompted the mosque shooter to change his not guilty pleas to guilty.

The Press un­der­stands Bren­ton Tar­rant, who yes­ter­day pleaded guilty to mur­der and at­tempted mur­der charges re­sult­ing from his cold-blooded slaugh­ter at Christchur­ch mosques in March last year, was vis­ited by his sis­ter Lauren, who also goes by the name Rosie Robin­son, at Pare­moremo Prison in Auck­land in the past two weeks.

Their conversati­on is un­known but Tar­rant, who has been ‘‘up and down’’ ac­cord­ing to sources, might have been helped by the in­ter­ac­tion to come to a de­ci­sion.

Rosie, a mu­si­cian from Sandy Beach, near Coffs Har­bour in New South Wales, shared with her brother a love of me­tal band Tool.

Also in the past fort­night, the mosque killer re­ceived the fi­nal dis­clo­sure of the po­lice ev­i­dence against him, sources said. The scale of the over­whelm­ing case against him may have focused his mind.

The coro­n­avirus lock­down mea­sures might also have been a fac­tor in his de­ci­sion. The trial, sched­uled for June 2, was ex­pected to be de­layed and Tar­rant was fac­ing more time in his cell un­der soli­tary con­fine­ment and ex­tended un­cer­tainty.

Massey Univer­sity dis­tin­guished pro­fes­sor and so­ci­ol­o­gist Paul Spoon­ley, who is re­search­ing the Far Right and the af­ter­math to the March 15 mas­sacre, said the shooter might have had a com­plete and gen­uine change of heart but he thought it un­likely.

‘‘His ac­tions to this point sug­gest it is not some­thing like find­ing God but we do not know what has hap­pened in­side prison. He was a very committed white su­prem­a­cist and it would be a ma­jor U-turn.

‘‘What is un­usual is that a trial gave him the op­por­tu­nity to ar­tic­u­late his views yet again and he has for­gone that op­por­tu­nity.

‘‘It is in­ter­est­ing to try to get in­side his mind but he did some­thing that we strug­gle with any­way

be­cause your or my moral com­pass is com­pletely dif­fer­ent.’’

Spoon­ley doubted Tar­rant would have been en­tirely pre­vented from us­ing the trial to make state­ments and ex­plain his cause.

‘‘Whether [un­der se­vere re­stric­tions] jus­tice could be done or his de­fence would have agreed, I do not know.’’

Spoon­ley said the shooter might not have been able to cope with en­coun­ter­ing a court­room made up of vic­tims’ families and had pleaded guilty to avoid that.

One ben­e­fit of plead­ing guilty was he would not en­counter the de­tails of the case and ‘‘what would be said about him per­son­ally’’.

It was al­ways pos­si­ble the gun­man had an un­der­ly­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­or­der that had been treated, with the re­sult he re­alised the grav­ity of his ac­tions, Spoon­ley said.

‘‘These self-rad­i­calised shoot­ers tend to have border­line psy­cho­log­i­cal is­sues, if not full-blown ones, and it is a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity that con­di­tion has been treated.

‘‘One of the things about these peo­ple is that they are not nor­mally con­strained by con­ven­tion and nor­mal in­ter­ac­tion. You need to be a cer­tain type of per­son to com­mit these sort of crimes in the first place and [his dis­or­der] might have been un­treated.’’

Although sen­tenced pris­on­ers could ex­pect some dif­fer­ent sur­round­ings and treat­ment, Spoon­ley doubted the au­thor­i­ties had of­fered Tar­rant an in­cen­tive to plead guilty.

‘‘If you have been to our max­i­mum se­cu­rity prison, they are very much about keep­ing pris­on­ers separate and keep­ing con­trol of them.’’

He was in­clined to the be­lief no deals had been done as he could not imag­ine Cor­rec­tions and the po­lice ne­go­ti­at­ing. ‘‘Imag­ine if that went pub­lic. It would en­gen­der, es­pe­cially from the Mus­lim com­mu­nity, an enor­mous neg­a­tive reaction.’’

‘‘A trial gave him the op­por­tu­nity to ar­tic­u­late his views yet again and he has for­gone that op­por­tu­nity.’’

So­ci­ol­o­gist Paul Spoon­ley

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