White supremacist Philip Arps wants authorities to pay his legal bill after being cleared of loitering metres from a mosque during the March 15 gunman’s sentencing.
Christchurch was on high alert for the August sentencing of mass killer Brenton Tarrant, who was jailed for life without parole for murdering 51 Muslims in the city.
So when Arps, who was jailed for 21 months last year for spreading disturbing footage of the Al Noor Mosque massacre, visited a shop beside the Linwood Islamic Centre where nine people were killed, GPS tracking alarm bells sounded.
The 45-year-old Holocaust-denier and Hitler-admirer was arrested for allegedly breaching his strict prison release conditions, which included him not loitering near Christchurch’s two mosques or having contact with Muslim people without special approval from his probation officer.
He was charged with breach of release conditions and appeared at Christchurch District Court, where he denied the charge.
But last month the charge was dropped after it was concluded there was no evidence that he had breached his released conditions.
His lawyer said the arrest had resulted in significant expense and “distress” to Arps and his family.
And now he wants Corrections to pay his legal fees.
At a costs hearing in Christchurch this morning, Arps’ lawyer Anselm Williams said basic checks soon revealed that Arps had not breached his release conditions.
He said the Department of Corrections did not look any deeper than GPS data which showed he was near a mosque, and “assumed he must’ve breached”.
Arps was a frequent visitor to the shop, the lawyer said.
The arrest created a lot of work for the lawyer in order to get him bail, the court heard.
“The department didn’t look deep enough … and as a result he’s had to incur costs,” Williams said.
But Crown prosecutor Shivani Dayal said there had been “good cause” to suspect that Arps had been in breach of his special release conditions.
The GPS data Corrections had seen showed that Arps, deemed at high risk of reoffending, was approximately 17m from the Linwood mosque at a time the city was in a high threat level.
Corrections took a “cautious approach” to arrest Arps, Dayal said.
Judge Peter Rollo reserved his decision.
Arps lost an appeal against his strident release conditions earlier, with high court judge Justice Rob Osborne noting that Arps appeared to have a “deep-seated enmity towards people of the Muslim and Jewish faiths”.
“The enmity has been manifested in vitriolic language and activity. It seemingly occupies his mind both when he is awake and asleep,” he said.
It has led him into offending on two occasions in recent years. In 2016, Arps was one of a group of men who filmed themselves doing Hitler salutes as they delivered boxes of pigs heads and offal to the Al Noor mosque.
“White power … Bring on the cull,” Arps was seen saying in the video.
In that case, he was convicted of offensive behaviour and fined $800.
The second resulted in his pleading guilty to two charges of distributing objectionable publications in 2019 in the form of edited video footage of the March 15 shootings.
At the hearing in January, a Corrections official who gave evidence said that Arps, who compares himself to Adolf Hitler’s deputy and war criminal Rudolf Hess, found anyone who disagrees with his belief system to be offensive.
She fears he could harm the Muslim community again “through his views … most likely through online advocacy”.
The Muslim Association of Canterbury supported the extra release conditions, saying the community is “still very much traumatised” and that it was imperative that Arps, who maintains his anti-Muslim rhetoric, cannot visit or be seen around mosques nationwide.
Corrections also expressed concern over Arps’ business Beneficial Insulation, with its various Nazi symbols and white supremacist messages, and sought a condition that prevents him from using his employment as a platform to promote extreme views.
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