Supreme Court judge to lead terror attack Royal Commission

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today released the terms of reference for the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch terror attack and announced Supreme Court Justice Sir William Young as its chair.

“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,” Jacinda 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 Commission will look at:

  • The individual’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; 
  • His connections with others, whether in New Zealand or internationally; 
  • What relevant state sector agencies knew about this individual and his activities before this attack; what actions (if any) they took in light of that knowledge; and whether there were any additional measures that the agencies could have taken to prevent the attack;
  • Whether there were any impediments to relevant state sector agencies gathering or sharing information relevant to the attack, or acting upon such information, including legislative impediments, and
  • Whether there was any inappropriate concentration or priority setting of counter terrorism resources by relevant state sector agencies prior to this attack.

“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.

“The Commission has been tasked to engage with New Zealand’s Muslim community, including appointing qualified people to help with effective consultation.

“The Royal Commission will be established by Order in Council this Wednesday, April 10.

“It is scheduled to start considering evidence from May 13 and is expected to report back to the Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy within eight months – by December 10,” Jacinda Ardern said.

The Commission will have a budget of $8.2 million and one further member will be appointed by the end of April.

Notes to editor:

  • More details on the Royal Commission are online

Justice William Young biography:

  • Justice William Young graduated with an LLB (Hons) from the University of Canterbury and later gained a doctorate from Cambridge University. He worked in a law office in Christchurch before taking up practice as a barrister in crime, civil, commercial and tax litigation, acting latterly for, among others, the New Zealand Serious Fraud Office and the New Zealand Commissioner of Inland Revenue.
  • He was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1991, to the High Court in 1997, and to the Court of Appeal in January 2004. Justice Young become President of the Court of Appeal in February 2006.
  • In June 2007, Justice Young was awarded the DCNZM (Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit) for services as President of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand. Justice Young was designated a knight companion of that order in 2009.
  • Justice Young was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court with effect from 1 July 2010. He is an honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple and an honorary Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.