Justice

Police investigating another Tarrant letter

The Department of Corrections has referred a letter written by accused Christchurch terrorist Brenton Tarrant to police, Marc Daalder reports.

One of the nine letters written by alleged Christchurch gunman Brenton Tarrant has been referred to police for further investigation, Corrections chief executive Christine Stevenson has confirmed.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis told Newsroom he was briefed on the letter on Thursday night, but has not read it.

The letter in question was one of two letters withheld by Corrections, not one of the seven that the department had approved for sending. Two of the seven that were sent went to Tarrant's mother, according to Corrections.

Stevenson would not reveal any details about the contents of the letter or why it had been referred to police, saying it would not be appropriate for her to divulge further information.

Since Newsroom broke the story that Tarrant had been in contact with a member of the far-right in Russia while in prison, Corrections has scrambled to implement new processes for reviewing the accused terrorist's mail.

Extremist identification 'not exact science'

The new measures will involve a multi-disciplinary team that vets each document and a final sign-off from Stevenson herself.

Other extremists like convicted white supremacist Phillip Arps will have their mail reviewed centrally by a team that includes experts on extremist communication.

When asked how extremists would be identified, Stevenson said: "It's not an exact science, but we have our own intelligence."

Previously, Tarrant's mail was checked by an intelligence analyst and then signed off on by the prison director.

Stevenson said she had spoken several times with the director of Auckland's Paremoremo Prison and was going to speak with the analyst who vetted Tarrant's Russia letter on Friday.

Davis and Stevenson both rebuffed allegations that Corrections' interim ban on Tarrant's mail rights violates the law.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says it is "totally stupid" to suggest Brenton Tarrant is receiving lenient treatment when it comes to outdoor exercise. Photo: Lynn Grieveson.

Davis cited section 69 of the Corrections Act 2004, which stipulates a prisoner can be denied minimum entitlements - of which mail is one - "for a period of time that is reasonable ... [if] the health or safety of any person is threatened".

Stevenson framed the ban as "a pause, a re-evaluation, a review", and said the Department of Corrections had the authority to impose it.

According to Stevenson, 48 pieces of mail have been sent to Tarrant, with Corrections still sorting through some of the correspondence. Fourteen letters had been withheld, and some others had been delivered to him.

In multiple statements, Stevenson expressed her "unreserved apology for the distress this has caused to those impacted by the tragic events of 15 March".

"To say he's out running around making daisy chains on the football field ... is totally stupid."

Davis told Newsroom that, other than on correspondence, he had confidence in how Corrections had handled Tarrant.

National Party corrections spokesman David Bennett blasted the Government for what he said was lenient treatment of the accused terrorist.

"New Zealanders will be surprised to hear that the man accused of killing 51 people is allowed outside daily to exercise, is delivered a range of news articles each day, and is allowed visitors and phone calls," Bennett said.

However, Davis denied Tarrant was receiving lenient treatment, saying his exercise yard would likely be around six feet by four feet.

"To say he's out running around making daisy chains on the football field, which is what Bennett would imply, is totally stupid," he said.

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