Top corrections official vows to start reviewing each letter to and from accused Christchurch terrorist

The chief executive of corrections will now have the final say on letters to and from the man accused of Christchurch terrorist attack. The Corrections Minister has also expressed his concern for public safety over the release of one letter posted on a far-right website.

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Brenton Tarrant sent seven letters from his Auckland jail cell, including one to a far-right supporter. Source: 1 NEWS

Yesterday, it was revealed the accused gunman sent a letter from Auckland Prison at Paremoremo that later appeared on 4chan. 

Corrections chief executive Christine Stevenson said prisoners have legal entitlements which include sending and receiving mail.

Current rules around withholding letters include harming a victim, creating a public safety issue, commission of an offence or threatening the security of the prison.

All mail received and sent by accused terrorist attacker Brenton Tarrant was checked by two people, but from today the process will be "extremely stringent", she said. 

The chief legal adviser, chief custodial adviser and partner agencies will now be involved in looking at any correspondence of the prisoner, with Ms Stevenson the "final decision maker" over his mail. 

"I am also looking to strengthen the membership of the senior advisory group who provide advice directly to me on the management of this prisoner. This will include external membership from parties with highly specialised knowledge and experience," Ms Stevenson said.

The prisoner has been prevented from sending or receiving mail "until we have absolute assurance that the process in place for screening and assessing his correspondence upholds the safety of the public, both in New Zealand and internationally," she said.

Corrections is aware of the recipients of the seven letters he had sent. Two additional were withheld. 

"During his five months in our custody, the prisoner has sent seven letters, to his mother and in response to unsolicited mail from people while he has been in prison. A further two letters he wrote have been withheld," Ms Stevenson said. 

As to why the letter was sent out, Ms Stevenson said the process followed was insufficient and there was a "lack of judgment shown by the decision maker".

"I would not have made the decision to release the letter and I am terribly sorry this has happened."

She said the letter checkers followed corrections' process, but "what we have seen is poor judgment exercised".

"They are extraordinary distraught."

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis said he was "disappointed and angry" at the situation.

He had read the letter and said it was "unacceptable". 

"The letter should not have gotten out - I've expressed that disappointment directly to [corrections]," he said. 

"There are things in there that shouldn't be out there in the public. It's now online, it's causing distress to the communities affected. I'm concerned about public safety, not just here in New Zealand but also overseas. It didn't need to happen."

He had instructed any correspondence to now be signed off from the chief executive. 

"The process failed, that's why I said to them we've got to have a robust, rigorous process and it needs to start today." 

When asked if corrections had broken the current rules around inmate letter correspondence, Mr Davis said, "I would've thought the scrutiny would've said that this letter is not acceptable to send out". 

"It was sent out and that's the problem - the process let us down."

The accused has access to one phone call a week to an approved person, with the only approved people being family members and legal calls.

Under the Corrections Act 2004, sending mail is a required minimum entitlement. However, mail can be withheld in a very limited number of circumstances.