Brenton Tarrant was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Thursday, the harshest sentence New Zealand has ever down, for killing 51 people in March 2019 when he opened fire on two Christchurch mosques. Photo by John Kirk-Anderson/EPA-EFE
Aug. 26 (UPI) -- A judge in New Zealand on Thursday sentenced Brenton Tarrant to spend the rest of his life in prison for killing 51 people during a shooting rampage on two Christchurch mosques last year.
Tarrant, a 29-year-old Australian national, was sentenced to life without parole on Thursday, becoming the first person to receive New Zealand's most severe punishment available to the courts.
Justice Cameron Mander handed down the sentence in a Christchurch courtroom, stating that no prison term could equal Tarrant's crimes.
"Your crimes are so wicked that even if you are detained until you die, it would not exhaust the requirements of punishment and denunciation," he said, who told Tarrant in the courtroom that he was not only a murder but a terrorist. "You sought to essentially attack New Zealand's way of life."
Tarrant, who represented himself during sentencing, declined to speak and offered no defense.
"Mr. Tarrant does not oppose the application," his lawyer Pip Hall said on his behalf. "He should be sentenced to life in prison without parole."
During the fourth day of sentencing, Mander named each person Tarrant killed and injured, detailing how the shooting affected not only their lives but the lives of those around them.
"The severe and debilitating effect of this trauma and the lasting distress has been profound," Mander said. "Some have been devastated by what they went through and their lives forever altered. Your victims have shown extraordinary resilience, but the damage you have done cannot be ignored."
Tarrant, a self-professed white supremacist, pleaded guilty in March to 51 murder and 40 attempted murder charges and one count of engaging in a terrorist act for the March 15, 2019, shootings at the Masjid Al Noor and the Linwood Islamic Center where Muslims had gathered for Friday prayer.
New Zealand's worst mass shooting began at around 1:30 p.m. when Tarrant opened fire on the Al Noor mosque before heading to the Linwood Islamic Center where he did the same.
Authorities said that Tarrant was driving to a third mosque, weaving between traffic, when police rammed him onto the sidewalk, extracted him from the vehicle and took him into custody.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement on Thursday that she wanted to acknowledge the strength of New Zealand's Muslim community, who over the past few days had recounted the pain and loss they suffered by the shooting.
"Nothing will take the pain away but I hope you felt the arms of New Zealand around you through this process, and I hope you continue to feel that through all the days that follow," she said.
After shooting, Ardern proclaimed that she would never utter Tarrant's name, stating he sought notoriety -- a goal she would deny him.
On Thursday, she said that the trauma of the shooting will not easily heal but that may it be the last day they ever hear from Tarrant again.
"The trauma of March 15 is not easily healed but today I hope is the last where we have any cause to hear or utter the name of the terrorist behind it. His deserves to be a lifetime of complete and utter silence," she said.