Terror attack teen ‘will never go back to extremism’

A Christchurch teenager who once plotted a radical Islamist terror attack says he will never go back to extremist thinking after the attack that killed 50 people at the Al Noor Mosque.

He told a Christchurch District Court judge today: “I’ll never go back to extremist thinking or ideologies. All it does is cause grief, anger, and sadness.”

The youth, now aged 19, has been monitored by Judge Stephen O’Driscoll since February 2018 when he admitted planning to carry out the attack on a group of people in public, after converting to Islam and being radicalised online.

He originally planned to ram a car into a group of people and then stab them until the police killed him. He wrote a goodbye letter to his mother and then carried out a violent attack in 2017, making threats and causing damage. But he later told a psychologist that he “decided not to hurt anybody because he did not have the means to kill enough people”.

He admitted charges of wilful damage, shoplifting, threatening to kill or cause grievous bodily harm, and possession of an offensive weapon. The youth has name suppression.

Judge O’Driscoll sentenced him to two years of intensive supervision with monthly monitoring sessions which have continued to monitor his progress and sometimes his setbacks.

Today, he told the judge he had been to the home of one of the victims of the mosque massacre during efforts to stop him being radicalised.

“I was a stupid, stubborn little kid who was angry all the time,” he said.

He felt disgust about how he used to think, after learning of the mosque terror attack. He realised that his thinking might have led to “innocent Kiwis” being harmed. “It makes me sad. I want to apologise to everyone for having such views of hatred.”

He was pleased with how much progress he had made, and thanked all the people who had given him a second chance. “To those who wanted rehabilitation for me, it has pretty much saved my life.”

He said the mosque incident had made him hate his old way of thinking even more, and made him want to be part of New Zealand society even more.

He had been on a walk for mental health, and had volunteered to help with other activities.

The court was told issues had arisen with “sentence fatigue” with the youth being supervised in supported accommodation and accompanied on outside visits. Efforts are under way to find more activities and Judge O’Driscoll suggested some outside sporting activities that could be tried.

The teen also admitted two charges of breaching the terms of his intensive supervision.

Because he had been radicalised online, his supervision terms block any access to any internet-capable device on which he could view images.

On dates in February and March, he had obtained his mother’s cellphone when she visited and kept it overnight. He admitted to his supervisor that he had had it, and said he had used it to look at pornography.

The supervisors had now arranged a meeting with the teen and his mother, who would not be allowed to bring her cellphone on any future visits.

The youth apologised to Judge O’Driscoll for the two breaches. He said: “I just wanted to watch some porn. There is no excuse for it.”

At the request of defence counsel Anselm Williams, the judge did not enter convictions. Mr Williams explained that an application may be put in later for discharges without convictions.

In the meantime, further psychological reports are being prepared.

Judge O’Driscoll noted that the youth had been barred from having internet access because that was how he had become radicalised.

The police had obtained the cellphone involved in the breaches and had verified that it had been used to access pornography but “nothing objectionable”, Mr Williams told the court.

The judge accepted that the youth had not used it to access “radical, extremist, or religious matters”.

He remanded the youth for another judicial monitoring session on May 10.