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HDPA: Govt can't blame the law for alleged gunman's letter getting out

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 15 August 2019, 4:22PM
Jacinda Ardern and Kelvin Davis are citing a loophole in the law that doesn't seem to be there. (Photo / Getty)

That letter from Brenton Tarrant should never have made it out of jail.

I’ve read it, it’s mostly boring, but the last line can be interpreted as a call to arms. In other words it's encouraging others to violence, which means that letter shouldn’t have made it out.

Now, to be fair to the authorities and the Government, they have taken this one on the chin and admitted it shouldn’t have happened. But what they’re trying to do is to blame it on a gap in the law. Both Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern are vowing to take a look at the law and see if it’s fit for purpose.

Here’s the thing: the law is fit for purpose. The law very clearly says that prisoners are not allowed to use their mail privileges to promote or encourage the commission of an offence. A call to arms if you see it as that is inciting violence.

Now to be honest, it’s contextual. You have to know his alleged crime and probably have read his alleged manifesto to understand the last line. But his fans will know his alleged crime and will have read his alleged manifesto.

And therein lies the problem: Do the people reading the mail perhaps not understand the alleged messages? Or are they worried they’ll be sued by him?

The rules also give prisoners a right to be able to send mail. They get paper and pens and stamps and are allowed three letters out a week.

So, does stopping that letter open corrections up to litigation from Tarrant? Does it give him the opportunity to take them to court and say he’s not getting a fair deal?

Well, let him have a go. It’s a risk worth taking. Because the biggest problem with crimes like the one he’s is alleged to have committed is the idea behind it. That’s the thing you don’t want spreading. You don’t have other people feeling inspired

Changing the law to restrict certain prisoners from getting mail, changing the law to be absolutely clear about what certain prisoner scan say and to whom they can say it, that’s a cop out.

The law is clear and under the law, this letter shouldn’t have been let out. You don’t need to change the law, you just need to enforce the law.

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