What the Christchurch mosque terrorist will face at Auckland Prison

Warning: This article discusses the Christchurch mosque attack.

A former Auckland Prison inmate says the Christchurch mosque shooter is being kept on a jail wing by himself, won't walk on grass again, and may only rarely see direct sunlight. 

A leading human rights lawyer has questioned the conditions but says prison officials face few other options. 

Brenton Tarrant was sentenced in the Christchurch High Court on Thursday to life in prison without parole for the mosque attacks on March 15, 2019.

Wearing a helmet and a black vest, he was marched by six police officers to a waiting Air Force C-130 Hercules on Thursday night. 

His departure from Christchurch marked one of the last occasions where he'd witness such a flurry of human activity. 

Former inmate Arthur Taylor says from now Tarrant will wake up alone and spend 23 hours each day in a prison cell.

"He's on a corridor all to himself. There's no one else in the other 14 cells. He's in a cell all on his own," Taylor told Newshub.

From now on Tarrant will only be allowed one hour of exercise, in a yard Taylor describes as a "concrete box" with a mesh-covered roof.  

"The sun has got to be at a certain angle to get any sunlight," he said.

"You could have him put out there when there's no sun overhead, so he never sees any sunlight."

Human rights lawyer Dr Tony Ellis says United Nations standards say you can't hold someone in solitary confinement longer than 15 days. But in Tarrant's case, letting him mix with others presents a risk. 

"He's likely to get, pretty bluntly, killed, if not severely beaten up," he said. "But solitary confinement sends you ultimately mad."

Dr Ellis says Tarrant will need mental health support, as his sentence of life in prison without parole is one of "no hope". 

"So the chance of him becoming severely depressed and a suicide risk must be pretty high."

Auckland barrister Steve Bonnar QC says the state has the responsibility to treat people in prison "appropriately and fairly" as they put them there.

That means minimum entitlements, including phone calls, books, some visitors, and access to rehabilitation. 

Bonnar says while he has some concerns with someone being effectively sentenced to die in jail - the law allows it. 

"I suspect, much of the population would agree that if this case didn't justify a sentence of life without parole, it's hard to imagine one that would."

Former inmate Taylor, who's been in solitary confinement around 20 times, says the punishment is severe. 

"If I had a lifetime of what he's going to be exposed to, I would sooner be executed."

Corrections says Tarrant will be "managed under the most stringent custodial regime we have ever developed", and they're committed to ensuring he causes no harm, directly or indirectly to anyone. 

Where to find help and support: 

  • Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633
  • Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)
  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
  • What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584