Social media, gun licence NZ inquest focus

·2-min read

A coronial inquest into New Zealand's worst mass shooting will examine what part social media played in radicalising Australian attacker Brenton Tarrant, how he obtained a firearms licence and the response of emergency services to the 2019 Christchurch attacks.

Coroner Brigitte Windley on Thursday released the scope of the coronial inquest into the March 15, 2019 "atrocities... unprecedented in New Zealand" that killed 51 worshippers at two Christchurch mosques.

The coroner said the inquest would not investigate whether intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies had missed any opportunities to prevent the attack.

A Royal Commission had already considered this matter, she wrote, and "the security sensitive nature of the key evidence underpinning that issue makes it likely the coronial inquiry would not be able to provide (...) any greater access to that evidence".

A Royal Commission report into the attacks released in December 2020 made 44 recommendations to the government.

Tarrant, who grew up in the NSW town of Grafton, was convicted after pleading guilty in March 2020 to the murders, as well as 40 attempted murders and a charge of terrorism from the 2019 rampage at two mosques.

In September 2020 he was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

His decision to plead guilty to the crimes - reversing an earlier plea - prevented a trial that would have examined his actions.

The coroner said on Thursday she would look into whether there is evidence that Tarrant "was radicalised by way of his online activity, with a particular focus on the earlier period of 2014 and 2017 which has, as yet, not been examined".

His social media use had been investigated by the Royal Commission "although it was precluded from investigating private social media or online digital platform providers".

The inquest will also inquire how the gunman obtained a firearms licence, an issue the coroner said was of particular concern to interested parties - those injured in the attacks, family members of the victims and community organisations.

"If a causative link between the firearms licence and the attack can be drawn, this will allow the Coroner to also assess what progress has been made on implementing the relevant recommendations made by the Royal Commission," she said.

The coronial inquest will also look into events from the commencement of the attack until completion of the emergency response including whether "Tarrant had any help from others on that day, the emergency response efforts, and whether that response may have affected the survivability of the deceased".

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