27 November 2023

Tetraplegic terrorist who planned 'violent attack' on Goulburn prison officers handed more jail time

| Claire Fenwicke
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Tukiterangi Lawrence had been imprisoned at Goulburn Supermax when he made plans to attack local corrective services officers. Photo: File.

A man who became a tetraplegic while behind bars at Goulburn Supermax has been sentenced to a further six years’ imprisonment for threatening the lives of local corrective services officers and partaking in planning a terrorist attack.

Tukiterangi Lawrence previously pleaded guilty to preparing for, or planning, a terrorist act between 6 June and 1 October, 2019.

This included trying to recruit a fellow detainee (referred to as Witness A) to find out details of NSW Corrective Services officers when Witness A was released from prison, and supporting plans for an extremist Islamic terrorist act while he was in Goulburn prison.

The 27-year-old also admitted to previously intentionally advocating for a terrorist act on social media, which included encouraging people to prepare weapons and undergo physical training for a “violent jihad”.

It was noted at the time of his offending that Lawrence described himself as a Salafi jihadist and adhered to a fundamentalist interpretation of the religion.

“An aspect of which was that Muslims were obliged by their religion to undertake violent jihad, which included participation in a violent offensive struggle to promote Salafi jihadi ideology globally, and thus including Australia,” NSW Supreme Court Justice Mark Ierace noted.

“The act or acts in planning or preparation for a terrorist act(s) was or were done with the intention of advancing violent jihad through the plans that were the subject of the indictment [terrorism] offence.”

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The agreed facts of the case showed Lawrence had spoken with Witness A (who had also converted to Islam) about his Islamic religious ideology.

He requested Witness A to “attend pubs in Goulburn and follow corrections officers home, to determine where corrections officers and their families lived” once he had been released from custody.

He also encouraged Witness A to carry out violence against these people.

“Although the plan did not progress beyond the offender’s initial approach to Witness A, it was a serious attempt to lay the groundwork for a violent attack upon those officers,” Justice Ierace noted.

When Lawrence was in the Goulburn High Risk Management Correctional Centre (HRMCC) in 2019, he was also found to have a letter written by his cellmate Isaac El Matari, which detailed plans for a violent Islamic insurgency in Australia, including “taking to remote regional areas” to plan the attacks.

Lawrence wrote back stating his agreement with the plan, calling it a “beautiful letter”, but did not send it.

There’s no evidence either letter had been, or was planned to be, disseminated.

Officers also seized another document, which contained drawings of a person “being shot in the head with a pistol” and “having their throat cut with a curved-blade sword”.

Another document referred to his release data and a note that mentioned carrying out an “opperation [sic]”, “if the objective was 2 get many but you only sucseded [sic] in getting 1 or 2 … would u wait 4 something bigger … if we could get one is it suffient [sic]”.

When police interviewed him about the documents, they put to him that his arrest would “put a stop to his preparations”.

Lawrence replied: “No it hasn’t” and “I could carry it out in jail”.

He was charged with the terrorism offence on 18 February, 2021.

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It was while on remand for his offence, on 27 November, 2021, at the HRMCC, that Lawrence and seven fellow inmates refused to be locked in their cells.

NSW Corrective Services officers used “force and chemical munitions” to ensure compliance, but during this time Lawrence suffered a “catastrophic spinal cord injury”, which led to him being diagnosed as a tetraplegic.

He was then granted bail in the Supreme Court on 7 April, 2022, and was put under an extended supervision order for three years.

In early January 2023, he was arrested for breaching his bail conditions and three counts of breaching the condition of his supervision order, after his phone was seized and found to contain images of Islamic State victims about to be beheaded, as well as pictures of firearms, AFP officers, the AFP Sydney headquarters and Corrective Services staff.

He’s been kept at the Long Bay Hospital Correctional Centre since.

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In preparation for sentencing on the terrorism offence, a forensic psychiatrist report noted that while Lawrence had trauma-related disorders, cognitive impairment and a “personality structure” that influenced his judgment and behaviour, they “do not prevent him from understanding the legal and moral consequences”.

It also noted his willingness to participate in therapy and adopt a “pro-social” lifestyle, but cautioned he also continued to “partially justify” his beliefs and conduct, with his prospects for rehabilitation “guarded”.

Justice Ierace ultimately sentenced Lawrence to six years’ imprisonment, backdated to 23 May, 2021, with a non-parole period of four and a half years.

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