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Border restrictions eased for support people wanting to attend mosque attacker's sentencing

The Government is allowing border restrictions to ease in order for offshore victims and support people of Christchurch mosque attack victims to attend the sentencing of the accused.

Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch. Source: 1 NEWS

An Australia man was convicted of terrorism, 51 counts of murder and 40 counts of attempted murder after pleading guilty to the charges earlier this year.

He will be sentenced at the High Court in Christchurch on August 24.

In a statement today, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the Government is extending the border exception criteria to enable some offshore victims and support people of the Christchurch mosque attacks to attend the sentencing.

“We have quickly established a process to allow victims and a family member or support person to come to New Zealand using new humanitarian grounds. This is within our intent for the use of this provision.”

In order to manage within current isolation and quarantine capacity, those eligible to submit an expression of interest for a border exception under new humanitarian grounds are:

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Sentencing had been delayed due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. Source: Breakfast

• Up to two family members of those killed or one family member and one support person
• those who were subject to an attempted murder in the attack and one family member or support person to accompany them.

“I am mindful that the time it may take individuals to submit an application, together with the limited commercial airline flights and the managed quarantine requirements, do make the logistics of getting to New Zealand in this timeframe a challenge."

“I understand the Ministry of Justice has been working with the Court to put in place technology options to enable victims who are overseas and unable to travel to view the sentencing hearing and read a Victim Impact Statement remotely.

“New Zealand is a country that is very proud of our multicultural community. We want to assure those who live here, and those who may in the future, that New Zealand is united in condemning this act of terrorism,” Mr Lees-Galloway said.

It comes as the Ministry of Justice also announced today that more financial assistance will be made to Christchurch Mosque Attack victims to travel to attend the sentencing.

The one-off extension to the Victim Assistance Scheme will enable all victims who were present in the mosques at the time of the attacks to be eligible to receive contributions towards travel related costs, rather than this eligibility being restricted to those who suffered gunshot injuries, and the families of the deceased, the ministry said in a statement.

Victim Support, which administers the Victim Assistance Scheme on behalf of the Ministry, has welcomed the move.

“This extension will help victims of the Al Noor and Linwood Mosque attacks to engage with the criminal justice system, supporting their healing and safety,” Victim Support chief executive Kevin Tso said.