Immigration lawyer believes more could've been done to ensure LynnMall Countdown attacker wasn't posing threat to public

An immigration lawyer is surprised police didn't detain and keep the LynnMall Countdown attacker behind bars before he went on his stabbing rampage. 

Saturday marks a year since Sri Lankan national Ahamed Samsudeen entered west Auckland's LynnMall Countdown, brutally stabbing several shoppers before being shot dead by police at the scene. 

He had been under 24/7 police surveillance and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Immigration NZ and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) all knew about the risk he posed but could not deport him, even though his refugee status was cancelled in February 2019. 

He appealed that decision in April 2019 and was still waiting on the outcome of that when he went on his rampage. 

Authorities asked if he could be detained instead but the legal advice was no.  

Immigration lawyer believes more could've been done to ensure LynnMall Countdown attacker wasn't posing threat to public

Immigration lawyer Simon Graham told AM on Friday, it's not good enough how long the process took.  

"It's certainly not good enough because of what has occurred, that's what I suppose raises my interest in what steps did immigration consider taking at the time," he told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green. 

"That's why I'm a little bit surprised that steps were taken to arrest him and detain him pending the outcome of the appeal. It certainly seems like they had sufficient grounds to warrant such steps. 

"The fact that he was under quite close surveillance would indicate they had sufficient evidence that he did pose a risk to security, and that would be one of the grounds they could have pursued under this particular provision of the Immigration Act." 

Graham said there are tools under the New Zealand Immigration Act to have arrested Samsudeen before he went on his rampage. 

"I think the question really is what interim steps Immigration could've taken prior to the hearing of that case because the events unfolded prior to that hearing," he said. 

"There are provisions and mechanisms under the Immigration Act, under part nine, which provide tools which are available to Immigration to effectively arrest and potentially detain the person pending the outcome of that appeal." 

Graham said the LynnMall Countdown attacker's case demonstrates New Zealand's deportation laws are robust but also too protective of dangerous people.  

"I suppose if you were cynical, you take the view that it's overly protective of people who have nefarious intentions," he said.

"But on the other end of the spectrum, it demonstrates there are proper checks and balances and legal processes in place to ensure that before a person is deported, the person's status is properly tested against the relevant human rights conventions to determine whether it's justified in any particular situation."

Countdown told AM in a statement it is consistently reviewing its safety policies.

"The attack at LynnMall last year was incredibly impactful and traumatic for our whole team, particularly so soon after the incident at our Dunedin Central store," a Countdown spokesperson said. 

"We know the team at those two stores in particular are still affected by what happened, and we’re continuing to support them as needed. 

"In terms of policy, this is something we constantly review to ensure that our team and customers are as safe as possible in our stores because unfortunately, our team members experience and witness aggression from members of the public on a daily basis."

Watch the full interview with Simon Graham above.