Sir William Young to chair terror-attack royal commission

by Sol Dolor12 Apr 2019

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed that Sir William Young, a Supreme Court justice, will chair the royal commission of inquiry into the Christchurch terror attack.

Ardern also released the terms of reference for the royal commission, which will have one further member appointed by the end of the month. The commission will have a budget of $8.2m.

“The government will ensure no stone is left unturned as we examine as quickly as possible how the March 15 attack happened, what could have been done to stop it and how we can keep New Zealanders safe,” Ardern said. “The royal commission plays a critical role in our ongoing response to fully understand what happened in the lead up to the attack and to ensure such an attack never happens again.”

The inquiry will examine the attacker’s activities before the attack, including relevant information from his time in Australia; his arrival and residence in New Zealand; his travel within New Zealand, and internationally; how he obtained a gun licence, weapons, and ammunition; his use of social media and other online media; and his connections with others, whether in New Zealand or internationally.

The inquiry will also look at relevant state-sector agencies that knew about the attacker and his activities before this attack; what actions, if any, that they took in light of that knowledge; and whether there were any additional measures that the agencies could have taken to prevent the attack.

The inquiry will also study whether any impediments to relevant state-sector agencies gathering or sharing information relevant to the attack, or acting upon such information, including legislative impediments. It will also scrutinise whether there was any inappropriate concentration or priority setting of counter-terrorism resources by relevant state-sector agencies prior to the attack.

In addition to releasing the terms of reference for the inquiry, Ardern also explained why she is confident in the Supreme Court justice leading the inquiry.

“Justice Young, who is a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand – New Zealand’s highest court – has the extensive experience and skills required to lead the Inquiry. I am confident that in his nearly nine years as a judge on our highest bench, Justice Young has the judgement, clarity and care to do the job, with a sound understanding of intelligence issues and experience working in the public eye,” she said.

She said that the commission has been tasked to engage with New Zealand’s Muslim community, including appointing qualified people to help with effective consultation. Established by Order in Council on 10 April, the royal commission is expected to start considering evidence from 13 May and report back to Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy within eight months or by 10 December.