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Uproar over letters sent by Christchurch terrorist attack accused 'a massive overreaction' - criminologist

A Canterbury University criminologist says there has been a "massive overreaction" to the letters sent by the man accused of the Christchurch terrorist attack, in which 51 people were killed at two mosques.

It was revealed last week that Brenton Tarrant sent seven letters from prison. One of them was to a person in Russia that ended up being published on the 4chan internet message board.

Greg Newbold told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning he read the letter and doesn't believe there was anything wrong with it.

"It's basically a chat, a general chat, with his mate in Russia about how much he enjoyed his trip to Russia and then there's a couple of lines right at the end of it which refer to his political philosophy - he believes in a natural hierarchy, which isn't a new idea ... and he says there's going to be a great conflict.

"So what? I don't see any issue at all with it. I think it's a big storm in a teacup."

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The Prime Minister said laws around prisoners’ rights to send mail will be looked at following the incident. Source: Breakfast

Mr Newbold's comments come after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggested the 15-year-old law around prisoners correspondence might be changed to "take into account social media and white supremacists' coded language". In addition, Corrections officials have said the current law might need to be made clearer.

But Mr Newbold said the accused gunman had been careful about what he's writing as he knows they are being checked. As well, he said the man is in solitary confinement with limited communication to news.

"He's mincing his words and there's nothing really in it [his letter] that I see, particularly in terms of section 108 of the Corrections Act. The Corrections Act says that the letters have got to be stopped if it endangers any person - well the letter doesn't do that," Mr Newbold said, adding that if he was the officer checking it he wouldn't have any hesitation letting it pass through.

"There's nothing specific in this letter that violates the Correction Act as far as I can see."

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On TVNZ1’s Breakfast Kelvin Davis said he couldn’t say who five of the letters sent from Auckland Prison were sent to. Source: Breakfast

He called the uproar over the letters and the call for law changes "a massive overreaction and it's a big panic".

"If we're going to suppress or prevent inmates from voicing political opinions which we disagree with we might as way get away with democracy," Mr Newbold said.

"It is an alleged terrorist. He hasn't even been convicted yet and some people are saying he shouldn't be allowed to write letters. Christ, he's got to be allowed to breathe."

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Christine Stevenson says the letter should not have been able to be sent. Source: Breakfast

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Greg Newbold, of Canterbury University, talked about why he thinks the response to the letters is a “massive overreaction”. Source: Breakfast