The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision on whether to reduce the sentence of a New Zealand man jailed for gathering and distributing material of an extremely violent nature.
In the first case of its kind in New Zealand, Aucklander Imran Patel was jailed for three years and nine months in June last year after pleading guilty to making, distributing and possessing videos depicting cruel violence perpetuated by the terrorist group Isis, including execution-style killings.
Police searched Patel’s home in December, 2015, and found 62 objectionable videos showing extreme violence or cruelty, as well as copies of an Isis endorsed online magazine.
The material was stored on various devices, with some sent to friends he had met through an Auckland mosque.
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Appellant counsel Adam Holland argued in the Court of Appeal in Wellington on Tuesday that the starting point of five years’ jail for Patel’s sentence was too high, and that the making charge was at the lower end of the spectrum.
Patel had collected 137 video files from various online sources and had only distributed two five-minute videos to some of his associates, Holland said.
None of the material was altered or edited.
“You’re not going to get a more benign example of a making charge than this.”
Holland acknowledged the two videos, circulated to 52 people, were of extreme violence or execution, and that Patel supported the actions in the clips.
However, he disagreed Patel’s actions could incite support for the violence, as the original decision stated.
“He was a young man heavily involved in the Muslim community and had a genuine interest in Middle Eastern affairs.
“A lot of the material was not deemed objectionable. He pulled it from a number of sources to get an overall picture of what was happening in the Middle East. I would not say it is sinister.”
Holland also objected to a one-year uplift of Patel’s sentence for a previous conviction which brought a 10-month jail term. Those charges, relating to a road rage incident, included threatening to kill and use of an offensive weapon.
Justice Raynor Asher, one of three justices presiding over the case, strongly questioned Patel’s motives in sharing the videos.
“What on earth could be the political purpose, or any purpose, of sending videos of extreme violence, other than to titillate or provoke empathy with the violence?”
Justice Asher noted one of the videos was accompanied by supportive text, including the word “revenge”.
Senior counsel for the respondent Brendan Horsley said there was no doubt the videos endorsed Isis, and Patel’s case offered a clear chance for New Zealand to show it did not support anything the terrorist group did.
“The videos broadcast actually had the Isis flag as imagery, accompanied by a “revenge is sweet” phrase in the first instance.
“Anything that supports what Isis is doing is an incredibly important and aggravated factor in this offending.”
Horsley also questioned Patel’s letter of remorse, suggesting it was more an attempt to vindicate the material, “and that, in itself, is disturbing”.