Dr Liz Gordon: Mr No-Name pleads guilty


So ‘he who will not be named’ had pleaded guilty and will not face a trial. Those involved are very relieved but also very slightly cheated.  But he would have been mad to testify, so really there is little they missed out on.

Legally, the main ‘unresolved’ issue relates to the charge of terrorism. Obviously, as everyone on this blog knows, the state charge of terrorism is fraught with difficulties.  What is an act of violence and what is an act of terror?

In pleading guilty, the unnamed man had admitted that he is guilty of a terror event. To an extent, that makes it ‘made’ law that shooting down people in cold blood because of their religious beliefs is a terror event in Aotearoa.

But the guilty plea makes it impossible for the law to refine that finding with judge-made commentary and so on. In future, it might make the use of the terrorism charge more likely.  This is the second time that a trial has failed to properly consider the terrorism laws – the first was when the terror charge was dropped in the case of the Ruatoki group. At the time, it was noted that the law was impossibly complex and difficult to apply.

I have never really understood the view that a guilty decision, by plea or jury, gives closure to the victims.  It is a poor kind of closure, really. When my grandson’s killers were found guilty of murder, all I could think was what a waste of fine young men who, lost to drug addiction, spread it like a virus through the nation and lost their own souls in the doing. I just felt sad.

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In the case of Mr No-name, he became passionate about killing Muslims by reading well-circulated NAZI-style propaganda online. How he was ‘recruited’, how many others there are like him and whether we expect this to happen again, are all unanswered questions.  The trial would not have answered them.

It is probably best for all that he pleaded guilty.  But it is very urgent that someone does the research needed into whether (if we all survive the next few weeks) it is likely that such an event may happen here again, and also how to avoid it.  A good ‘bubble’ activity for an off-work researcher perhaps?

Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society.  She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.


  1. Yeah.
    No Trial.
    No objective contest or cross examination of anomalous dataset.
    Just Sleepy bye ni-night to critical thinking.
    Onward into erewhon.

  2. “So ‘he who will not be named’ had pleaded guilty and will not face a trial.”

    Of which the outcome would have been a foregone conclusion. This may be why he’s pleaded guilty. Saves the country a bucket load of money, and at a time when expenditure of that sort isn’t what we need. Though I doubt his motivation would be so altruistic.

    I was struck by how thin he is now, compared with when he first appeared in court. Doubtless a combination of prison diet and no access to KFC and steroids (just a guess there). But maybe he’s ill? Though I’ve not heard anything of that sort from Corrections.

    “….the state charge of terrorism is fraught with difficulties. What is an act of violence and what is an act of terror?”

    The law is, I believe, the same one under which the Urewera case was tried. The government of the time was leaned on by uncle Sam to enact that piece of legislation as a consequence of the 9/11 attacks. And as I understand the situation, it was never fit for purpose, which is why the Urewera charges were thrown out. I wonder if he was advised to plead guilty because counsel had doubts about whether the terrorism charges could be made to stick.

    And – speaking of that law – a classic case of a foreign power interfering in our democratic process. I don’t recall anybody getting all hot and bothered about it, though, either at the time or since.

    “…if we all survive the next few weeks…”

    Do you mean, if we don’t kill, or are killed by, family members? A very real possibility, I fear.

    “…whether…it is likely that such an event may happen here again, and also how to avoid it.”

    We’ve had radical white supremacist groups in NZ since the early years of the 20c, but nothing like this has ever happened before.

    I’d point out further that Tarrant isn’t a NZer: he’s an Australian. And at the time, it was reported that he hadn’t originally intended to carry out this crime here. ChCh is the only place in NZ where he could have done anything remotely like that. Even Auckland would present insurmountable difficulties from a geographical point of view. I doubt that anything homegrown would be at all likely.

    It’s possible that somebody could come here from elsewhere and try to do again what Tarrant did. But it doesn’t seem likely: surely by now the security services – who are supposed to be the ones watching out for that sort of thing – will be doing their job. One would hope so.

  3. We also seem to have been robbed of the opportunity to hear how Tarrant managed to get a gun license after only a few days in NZ. How he was radicalized. In his early travels in the mid east he appears to have shown a tolerant attitude to the locals but then he had a spell in Turkey that somehow changed him. I for one would hope the police have investigated these things and that the results are open to public scrutiny. Justice must be seen to be delivered.

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