The gunman sentenced to life in prison for the mass killing of 51 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques could serve his sentence in his native Australia.
White supremacist Brenton Harrison Tarrant was the first person to be given a whole life tariff without the possibility of parole in New Zealand when he was sentenced on Thursday.
The March 2019 attacks targeting people praying at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch shocked New Zealand and prompted new laws banning the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would be open to seeing Tarrant, who pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism, transferred to Australia but said the victims’ wishes would be paramount.
A transfer would buck international convention and require changes to the laws in both countries, but proponents of the idea have called for Australia to take responsibility for detaining Tarrant and take the costs off the New Zealand taxpayer.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while New Zealand has made no official request the Australian government was open to taking him back.
He said: “I’m pleased that that terrorist will never be released anywhere ever again.
“We’ll have an open discussion and look at the issues around this.
“Most of all, we’re concerned about what the views of the families would be for those affected, and we want to do the right thing by them.”
£25 million The cost of keeping Tarrant in prison for the rest of his life
New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is among the most vocal proponents of a transfer.
He said: “Given this unprecedented circumstance and all the regard to the cost of looking after the victims in our country who survived and their families and also the 50 million New Zealand dollar plus (£25 million) downstream in real terms of providing safety for this terrorist, then the sound, reasonable, logical thing to do would be to ask Australia to step up.”
Tarrant was a legal resident of New Zealand at the time of the massacre, and international practice is for criminals to serve time in the jurisdictions where their crimes were committed.
First priority is to keep him in jail for the rest of his life, and we’ll work very closely with New Zealand on any request that they provide
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has shown little enthusiasm for the idea of a transfer, telling reporters that current laws do not allow it and that any decision should be driven by the wishes of survivors and family members.
Opposition leader Judith Collins is among those opposed to the idea, saying Australia might then want to send back hundreds of New Zealand citizens in Australian prisons.
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said he would take legal advice on whether Tarrant might become eligible for parole if he entered the country’s prison system.
He said: “We’d have to look at what happened in terms of parole or the way in which our legal system would work here.
“First priority is to keep him in jail for the rest of his life, and we’ll work very closely with New Zealand on any request that they provide.”