Revealed: How many people with 'extremist views' in the community are being watched closely

A week after a man known to police because of his extremist beliefs stabbed seven people in a west Auckland supermarket, Newshub Nation can reveal the authorities are monitoring dozens more with "potentially violent extremist views".

Luckily no one was killed in last week's attack in New Lynn - police had been following the man closely, suspecting he might one day carry out an atrocity. If the Crown had its way he would likely have been in prison but for a loophole in the law, which meant he couldn't be charged with plotting an attack earlier this year. 

Responding to an Official Information Act request filed before the attack, Corrections said it had compiled a list earlier this year of "persons of interest for extremist views" in preparation for the second anniversary of New Zealand's worst-ever terror attack - the Christchurch mosque shootings of 2019. 

Corrections said it was, in March, monitoring 81 people behind bars and 135 in the community.

"These individuals range in their level of concern from confirmed extremist beliefs to those who have displayed risk factors and indicators specific to radicalisation, violent extremism, and ideological, political, social or political-religious motivated violence," national commissioner Rachel Leota said. 

Of those 216 people, 140 have, or are considered at risk of, identity-motivated violent extremism; the other 76 of faith-motivated violent extremism. Corrections didn't specify which identities or religions. The mosque shootings were carried out by a white supremacist nationalist, while the Countdown incident was New Zealand's first-ever attack believed to be inspired by Islamic State.

Leota said the events in Christchurch in 2019 "resulted in a significant increase in the number of persons of interest being monitored by Corrections" over their faith- or identity-based views. 

"When we identify that someone has potentially violent extremist views, we assess their level of risk and work with them in a range of ways, with a specific plan for each individual depending on their unique risk and need, to disengage them from the potential use of violence."

The number of people being monitored by Corrections has gone up 11 percent since 2019, when there were 194 on it - 146 identity-motivated and 48, faith.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis told Newshub Nation on Saturday staff were doing their best to keep a track of them.

"Those who are the most extreme, such as the New Lynn terrorist, he had 24/7 police surveillance, others have GPS bracelets and various ways to be monitored. So it depends on the different levels and the different extremes of their behaviour, making sure that we have a strategy and individualised plan for each person based on their needs, and so each one will be different. But those most extreme, such as the New Lynn terrorist, he had 24/7 monitoring."

The New Lynn terrorist was shot dead about a minute after his rampage began, potentially saving shoppers' lives. 

"If people have to be in the community, ie. their sentences are finished or the judge has said that they can be in the community, then Corrections does what it has to do to monitor their behavior to to watch them," said Davis.

"Like I said, they might have bracelets on. They might have other methods of monitoring their behaviour and their whereabouts. But, you know, such as, unfortunately, society these days that we have people whose views we severely disagree with out there in the community. But the authorities are doing the best job they can to monitor them and try and keep all New Zealanders safe from them and their ideologies."

Kelvin Davis.
Kelvin Davis. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

The New Zealand Muslim Association has questioned why the attacker was being housed at a small mosque in Glen Eden, which had minimal resources and expertise on hand. Corrections had turned down its request to help rehabilitate him, after he pleaded guilty to possessing offensive material. 

"We're a large organisation," president Ikhlaq Kashkari told RNZ earlier this week. "We have skills, capabilities, people and resources to support something like this but we wanted to make sure it's done properly. I have no idea how on Earth they managed to talk this small Islamic centre, who were basically renting a property, to take him on board."

Davis said Corrections "had conversations with the facilitator or the manager of that mosque, and that person agreed that it was okay to have him there".

"And like I say, we had police monitoring him 24/7. So the authorities did everything they could to make sure that he was in a place that he was reasonably comfortable with and that he could be monitored. 

There was a lot of effort put into him - don't for a second believe that he was put there and just left and forgotten…  I would trust the authorities whose job it is to put him in the correct place."

The Government has an amendment in place to patch the loophole, which National has said it will support, even under urgency. Some academics have questioned whether it will work however, and if it might have unintended consequences. 

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