Mosque video offender allegedly sent ‘violent’ letters from prison

Mosque video offender Philip Neville Arps has allegedly sent out letters from prison expressing violent views, the Crown has claimed.

Crown prosecutor Shivani Dayal acknowledged that the Crown did not have the letters and High Court Judge, Justice Rachel Dunningham has given her until 5pm on Monday to obtain the letters and make submissions.

Arps’ defence counsel Anselm Williams will then have until 5pm on Wednesday to respond before Justice Dunningham makes a decision on Arps’ appeal against his prison sentence.

However, she said the letter allegations were relevant to the appeal at which Arps is trying to get released from prison, arguing that his 21-month jail term was “manifestly excessive”.

The 44-year-old was jailed in June, months after being arrested and held in custody for his handling of the video made by the alleged mosque shooter during the incident in which 51 people were killed and 40 injured at two Christchurch mosques.

Arps pleaded guilty to two charges of distributing the video. He admitted that the day after the March 15 mosque killings, he had sent away the video to have it modified with cross-hairs and a “kill count”, and distributed the unmodified video to 30 associates.

Mr Williams said Arps had been sentenced for the views he held rather than the acts he accepted he had done, and pleaded guilty to committing.

He said the 21-month jail sentence imposed by Judge Stephen O’Driscoll in the Christchurch District Court was “manifestly excessive” and there should have been a community-based sentence such as home detention.

He said the video had been widely available worldwide. Arps had obtained it, just as many millions of people had done.

Justice Rachel Dunningham said millions of people had received it because people like Arps had sent the video on to others. She also noted that Arps was “unrepentent”.

Mr Williams said Arps had sent it to a group of 30 people he chatted with online and he had sent it to another friend asking for it to be modified. The friend sent back the video as four files after it was modified, and Arps then deleted the files after a public statement from the Prime Minister that the video was objectionable.

“He is not a member of any organisation that has engaged in violent activities, and he doesn’t aspire to commit any violent activities,” Mr Williams said. “He holds views that are not necessarily the views held by the majority of the population.”

Crown prosecutor Shivani Dayal said the sentenced imposed by the judge was “within range”. She said his actions in having the video modified were intended to glorify the attack. She argued that the material “appeared to encourage others to act in that manner”, but Justice Dunningham said that submission was taking his intentions “a step too far”.