Christchurch shooting: Winston Peters' call for terrorist to be deported 'legally impossible' - expert

Winston Peters' call for Australia to take back the Christchurch terrorist is "grandstanding" that would breach New Zealand law, according to one of the country's top legal minds.

The Australian gunman who murdered 51 people and injured 40 others at two mosques last year was on Thursday sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole - the toughest sentence available to judges under New Zealand law, and the first time it's ever been used.

"From an ordinary citizen's perspective I was happy to see the sentence because I think it represents as close as we can get to justice with regards to the actions this man carried out," University of Otago law professor Andrew Geddis told Newshub.

Peters, whose party NZ First is struggling in the polls, has called for the terrorist to serve out his sentence across the ditch.

"NZ First believes this terrorist should be returned to the country that raised him. Now is the time for Australia's Minister of Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, to receive and carry out the terrorist's sentence in Australia."

He cited the "astronomical" costs of keeping him behind bars and a desire to protect the Islamic community from further suffering. 

Prof Geddis says despite Australia's penchant for deporting New Zealand-born criminals, the reverse can't be done in this case.

"It's legally impossible for New Zealand to send the terrorist, the murderer across to Australia to serve his sentence. Our law simply does not allow that to happen. It's not a question of whether Australia would accept him - we simply cannot send him."

Kiwis who commit crimes in Australia serve out their sentences in Australia before being deported, he explained. But the Christchurch terrorist's sentence won't be complete until he's dead.

"New Zealand could do the same to this guy, but he's never going to get out of jail. Under New Zealand law he must remain in jail until he dies, and there is no way that we can send him to Australia, whether that's a good idea or not." 

He said Peters and other politicians calling for the mass murderer to be deported are just "grandstanding".

"If they really thought that was a good idea, they should have spent the last three years putting in place a law to allow it to happen. They didn't do so, it can't happen, so they shouldn't really call for it."

Justice Cameron Mander, who put the killer behind bars for life without parole.
Justice Cameron Mander, who put the killer behind bars for life without parole. Photo credit: Newshub.

Simon Bridges, former Crown prosecutor and Associate Minister of Justice, said the killer should do his time here despite the cost, calling him an "evil man being sentenced for the most evil acts".

"If it was so easy, he's the Deputy Prime Minister - he should get on and do it," Bridges told The AM Show. "But I think actually the crimes happened here, it's our justice system. Whilst there will be really significant costs, this killer should stay in New Zealand to his last gasp." 

Bridges said a shorter sentence which would have allowed the killer to be deported wouldn't have been right. 

"I know it seems trite to say it, but just think about this - 91 victims. Any of those in any other circumstance would have been remarkable... the right sentencing, but the only one you could envisage in this case. I just hope and pray we never see anything like this." 

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