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Christchurch attacks: royal commission hands in report on New Zealand mosque shootings

Eleanor Ainge Roy in Queenstown
·3-min read

The royal commission’s report into the Christchurch mosque shootings 2019 has been presented to the government, 20 months after it was first commissioned.

On 15 March last year a lone gunman shot and killed 51 worshippers at two inner-city Christchurch mosques. In August the man, Australian Brenton Tarrant, was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes, which were motivated by white supremacist ideology.

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, ordered a royal commission of inquiry into why and how the massacre took place, and whether there was anything government and police officials could have done to prevent it.

Prior to the attack the gunman posted multiple references to his plan online, was able to legally obtain a gun licence, and carried out reconnaissance missions to both mosques.

The inquiry took place behind closed doors and interviewed everyone from top security officials to survivors, current and former prime ministers.

The 792-page report was today presented to governor general, Dame Patsy Reddy, who will hand it over to the government to review.

Related: New Zealand's Muslims have put their faith in the Christchurch inquiry to help protect and heal | Aliya Danzeisen

It is up to the prime minister to decide when and how the report will be publicly released, but many are hoping for it to be made public before Christmas.

In a statement, the royal commission said it had written the report in a way that it could be made available for the public to read in full, without the need for redactions.

“Having completed 18 months of intense inquiry, engagement and analysis, we urge the government to consider the findings and act on the recommendations,” said Commissioner Sir William Young.

The minister for internal affairs, Jan Tinetti, said she had received the report and it must be presented to the House of Representatives as soon as practicable.

“We will share the report confidentially with families and victims ahead of the public release and work closely with them. It is only right that they have the space and opportunity to privately reflect on the findings,” Tinetti said.

During the course of the inquiry, more than 400 meetings were held, 340 non-disclosure orders were made, 73,500 pages of evidence and submissions were analysed and 217 public sector agencies were asked to provide information.

More than 1100 people wrote formal submissions to the commission, while many more got in touch to share their thoughts, experiences, and suggestions.

Related: New Zealand's darkest chapter ends but questions – and grief – endure

Survivors of the massacre, the worst in modern New Zealand history, say they are hopeful the government will listen to the commission’s recommendations, as some in the Muslim community feel they were ignored in the lead-up to the massacre, after warning police and authorities repeatedly that hate crimes and abusive behaviour against their community was escalating.

“It has been an honour and privilege to undertake this inquiry,” said commissioners Young and Jacqui Caine.

“Our hope is that this report not only provides answers but also impetus for change and conversations about the kind of country we want to be.”