New Zealand to pass legislation on Counter-Terrorism this month

Venkat Raman

Venkat Raman

Auckland, September 4, 2021

The inability of the government under current laws too much to bear

The sheer frustration over the inability of the government to see a known terrorist behind bars and worse, prevent him from going on a rampage at a public place, has forced Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to take decisive action.

“I am committing, that as soon as Parliament resumes, we will complete that work – that means working to pass the law as soon as possible, and no later than by the end of this month,” she told a media conference this afternoon.

As reported by us over the past two days, a terrorist, stated to be Sri Lankan origin, went on a knifing spree at the Countdown Supermarket at Lynn Mall in the West Auckland suburb of New Lynn, injuring seven shoppers, five of whom are in hospital in a critical condition.

The terrorist, who was shot dead by the Police at the Mall, was known to the Police and has been under surveillance since 2016 and according to available information, more so, since the past few months.

The prophecy of NSIS Chief

 
NZSIS Director-General of Security, Rebecca Kitteridge: Prophecy on June 15, 2021
(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)


National Security Intelligence Service Director General Rebecca Kitteridge was almost prophetic when she told the first Hui on ‘Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism’ in Christchurch on June 15, 2021 that terrorism and extreme violence pose real risks and that there is no guarantee that these will not occur in New Zealand.

“If there is a terror attack committed in New Zealand over the next 12 months, the NZSIS believes it will most likely come from an extremist lone actor who has gone under the radar, not coming to the attention of Police or our Service. It may come without any forewarning and be carried out using knives, vehicles, or some type of firearms,” she said.

Ms Arden revealed that the efforts of the New Zealand Police and her government to have the man sent to prison were futile since the courts would not allow their plea. The terrorist was in possession of ‘highly objectionable material,’ meaning that he possessed extremist, ISIS propaganda and hate material and anti-West sentiments, none of which the courts considered as ‘jailable offences.’

Ms Ardern said that the Police also worked alongside the NZSIS on this terrorist’s case. Corrections also advised that he would be reporting to the New Lynn Service Centre, where there would be a Police presence.

Court rejects plea

“Prior to his release, Police identified that he could be arrested without a warrant for breach of his conditions, and that there were other trigger points which would allow him to be arrested, including  committing, or threatening to commit a violent act, acquiring weapons or consuming objectionable material. In mid-July, the individual was released into the community, and the surveillance began immediately. In late July I was given a written update on the case. On the 9th of August I met with officials and discussed further options to reduce the risk this person posed to the community. In late August officials, including the Commissioner of Police, raised the possibility of expediting the amendments to the counter terrorism legislation,” she said.

The frustration of the government and the Police has been visible.

Our earlier stories on this subject can be read here, here and here.

Ms Ardern said that work on the ‘Counter-Terrorism Bill’ has been going on with policy work since 2019 and that the efforts included proposals to criminalise preparatory acts which might be related to a terrorist intent or plan.

The legislation process

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi introduced the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill to Parliament on April 21, 2021 and it passed the first reading on May 22, 2021. Broadly, the Bill would introduce a single, broad policy to prevent and respond to terrorism and associated activities by ensuring designation, offence, and control order provisions apply effectively to conduct that is, or that creates, an unacceptable risk of terrorism and associated activities.

“I am committing, that as soon as Parliament resumes we will complete that work, that means working to pass the law as soon as possible, and no later than by the end of this month,” Ms Ardern said and thanked Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins for her support.

The new legislation seeks to (1) clarify the definition of a ‘Terrorist Act’ (2) create a new offence to criminalise planning or preparation for a terrorist act (3) create a new offence to specifically criminalise terrorist weapons and combat training for terrorist purposes (4) create a new offence for international travel to carry out terrorist activities (5) expand the criminal offence of financing terrorism to include broader forms of material support and (6) extend the eligibility for control orders to include individuals who have completed a prison sentence for a terrorism-related offence if they continue to present a real risk of engaging in terrorism-related activities.

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