Christchurch massacre inquiry extended by five months

AFP . Wellington | Update:

In this picture taken on 16 March 2019, Brenton Tarrant (C), the man charged in relation to the Christchurch massacre, stands in the dock during his appearance at the Christchurch District Court. Photo: AFP

 

An inquiry into whether the deadly mosque attacks in New Zealand could have been prevented has been extended by five months, the government said Wednesday, with investigators overwhelmed with submissions.

The royal commission -- the most powerful judicial probe available under New Zealand law -- was supposed to report back on 10 December but after receiving more than 1,100 submissions this has been extended to 30 April.

The probe is investigating whether New Zealand's police and intelligence services could have prevented the 15 March attacks in which a lone gunman opened fire on two mosques in the city of Christchurch killing and wounding scores of Muslims.

Internal affairs minister Tracey Martin said more time was need "to hear submissions and consider information".

An Australian, Brenton Tarrant, will go on trial next year charged with 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and engaging in a terrorist act.

New Zealand 2: A view of the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue in Christchurch, New Zealand, taken in 2014. Reuters file photoWhen he was arrested soon after the shootings police recovered several firearms which had been legally bought, prompting a government crackdown on firearms including a ban on military style semi-automatic rifles.

Martin said the public "deserves to know what the relevant state sector agencies knew about the individual's activities before the attack, what, if anything, they did with that information, what measures agencies could have taken to prevent the attack, and what measures agencies should take to prevent such attacks in the future."

She said there was significant public interest in the investigation as evidenced by the number of submissions.

"The commission requested an extension as it will need considerably more time to fully consider these submissions given the complexity of information and materials received," Martin said.

The Muslim community had also asked for the reporting date to be extended, she said.

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