Kelvin Davis showing 'disdain' for Christchurch victims - National

National is slamming Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis after the alleged Christchurch gunman was allowed to write a letter to a supporter.

But an expert in far-right extremism says it's Corrections staff that have made a mistake.

The alleged gunman, accused of killing 51 people in the March rampage and currently being held at Auckland Prison in Paremoremo, received a letter from a supporter in Russia earlier this year. He was allowed to write back, and the supporter uploaded the response to website 4chan on Tuesday.

"I do not believe that Corrections should have allowed this letter to be sent, and I have sought assurances from them that there will be an enhanced process from now on," Davis said on Thursday. "I have made myself clear that this cannot happen again."

Corrections admitted it made a mistake, and should have withheld the letter because of its final line - effectively a call to action for likeminded people.

But National Corrections spokesperson David Bennett is blaming Davis.

"The problem is the minister hasn't taken an interest in this case - he's just left it to Corrections. He should have actually said from day one he doesn't want any communication going out."

David Bennett/Facebook
David Bennett. Photo credit: David Bennett/Facebook

Prisoners are legally entitled to send and receive mail, but Corrections has the right to withhold certain correspondence "in a very limited range of circumstances", a spokesperson told Newshub.

Davis is questioning whether the current rules are fit for purpose and is seeking advice on potential changes. Bennett says there are no excuses.

"This is the most high-profile prisoner ever in New Zealand, and to have a mistake like this - and the minister then hiding for cover - shows real disdain for the victims... The minister should have had the highest level of security around that prisoner, including that prisoner's ability to communicate with other people."

Former Massey University pro vice-chancellor Paul Spoonley is currently based at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Goettingen, Germany, where he is undertaking research into the far-right. He said Corrections made a mistake in allowing the letters through.

"In the same way you wouldn't want people trafficking in drugs, or communicating to people on the outside, asking them to something which might be illegal, [the alleged gunman] should not be allowed to do this either. So I think Corrections have slipped up."

He called it a reminder that the radical right here in New Zealand are communicating internationally. The alleged Christchurch gunman previously had correspondence with Martin Sellner, the leader of Austria's far-right Identitarian Movement.

"We've got to monitor and make sure we are not allowing these views to be amplified or given oxygen in any way. Let's just stop it both in terms of this issue, but more broadly."

Paul Spoonley.
Paul Spoonley. Photo credit: The AM Show

A case review will take place on Thursday. Unlike previous appearances, the accused won't be present, and it's expected to be brief.

He's denying 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder, and one of terrorism. His trial is due to go ahead on May 4 next year.