Islamic Women’s Council Of New Zealand Thanks The Chief Coroner
The Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand thanks the Chief Coroner for providing further information to families who lost a loved one in the terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques. On 14 December 2020, the Chief Coroner wrote to the families and some organisations, asking them inform her if there were any matters missed in the Royal Commission of Inquiry report into the attacks.
In order to make that assessment, the families required funding for independent, senior and appropriately qualified legal counsel. Such counsel would assist the families to understand the Royal Commission report and identifying gaps; to understand the powers of and processes used by the Chief Coroner; and to make the required response to her.
We note that state agencies and actors have full access to legal advice, which they have used as needed. This, yet again, creates a huge imbalance when families have not been provided with similar access to independent legal counsel, even to a minimal degree. There can be no justice when such a clear imbalance remains.
The Chief Coroner has the power to inquire into the causes of death and to make recommendations on actions and systemic changes that would prevent such deaths in the future. This is not limited to the immediate cause of death.
The Chief Coroner conducted an inquiry into deaths caused by the collapse of a building during the Christchurch earthquakes, after a Royal Commission Inquiry into that matter. That inquiry looked further than the immediate cause being the collapse of the building. Rather, the inquiry investigated the reasons why the building collapsed, including design and construction of the building.
Similarly, the Chief Coroner must inquire into the cause of death for the victims of the terrorist attacks into the Christchurch mosques. This includes a more in-depth inquiry into the path to radicalisation of the terrorist. The Royal Commission of Inquiry into these terrorist attacks was focused, in line with the terms of reference, on what the government knew or ought to have known about the terrorist. In fact, they were precluded from looking into wider matters, for example, the impact of social media platforms.
Furthermore, the evidence and submissions of state agencies has been sealed, and the hearings with them were held in private. There was no opportunity for members of the public to challenge any of the evidence, nor were any members of the public (or their legal counsel) allowed to gain security clearance in order to do so.
IWCNZ calls on the Chief Coroner to do all in her power to ensure justice for the victims.