Christchurch mosque attack: Tears in court as gunman Brenton Tarrant pleads guilty

A man who was shot three times in the leg and is receiving ongoing treatment following last year's Christchurch mosque shooting says he feels relief at Thursday's guilty pleas.

"It is something that the victims and the families don't have to go through a lengthy court trial," Feroze Ditta told Newshub. "We can move on."

The man who committed the mosque attacks, 29-year-old Brenton Harrison Tarrant, pleaded not guilty to all charges last year but on Thursday changed those pleas - admitting he was the lone gunman.

Fifty-one people were killed and 49 injured at Christchurch's Al Noor and Linwood Mosques on March 15, 2019, when Tarrant - an Australian - opened fire during Friday prayers.

Tarrant appeared in the Christchurch High Court via video link - maintaining a fixed stare as Justice Cameron Mander read the individual names relating to each charge. Al Noor Mosque Imam Gamal Fouda cried as the judge read them out.

Speaking to reporters in Wellington on Thursday afternoon, Police Commissioner Mike Bush acknowledged the courage and grief of victims. He labelled it a "milestone event".

"I have no doubt this plea will have an impact on all of you, and it will ensure you don't have to relive this through a court trial.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush. Photo credit: Getty

"I'd also like to make mention of the very large prosecution team and all those involved in getting this to this particular point."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the guilty pleas will "provide some relief to the many people whose lives were shattered by what happened on March 15". 

"These guilty pleas and conviction bring accountability for what happened and also save the families who lost loved ones, those who were injured, and other witnesses, the ordeal of a trial," she said.

Victim Support, meanwhile, says it's pleased victims of the attacks no longer have to face the trauma of the trial, adding ongoing support is being given to hundreds who still need help to cope with the trauma and with rebuilding their lives.

A date has yet to be decided for Tarrant to be sentenced. Justice Mander told the court that all who want to be there will be able to.

The courtroom was sparse on Thursday due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Tarrant faced 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge under the Terrorism Suppression Act. 

On Thursday he was convicted and remanded in custody until May 1.