Christchurch mosque shooting: Brenton Tarrant to represent himself at sentencing

Brenton Tarrant, the gunman who murdered 51 people at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques on March 15, 2019, will represent himself at his sentencing next month.

At a hearing on Monday morning, Justice Cameron Mander said the development does not affect Tarrant's sentencing.

Tarrant appeared in the High Court in Christchurch via video-link from Auckland Prison in Paremoremo.

Defence counsel, Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson, confirmed they had filed an application to withdraw from the case after receiving instructions from Tarrant that he wished to exercise his right to represent himself at sentencing. The sentencing hearing will commence on August 24.

Before granting leave to Tait and Hudson to withdraw as counsel, Justice Mander confirmed Tarrant understood his rights to legal representation and wished to waive those rights.

It was ruled that the development could not be reported until an hour after the hearing was adjourned, to allow court victim advisors time to inform the victims and their families.

Justice Mander will be appointing a lawyer to fulfill the role of standby counsel for the sentencing hearing. Their role will be to assist the defendant, if the defendant wishes to accept their help. They will also be on standby to assume the role of representing the accused, should Tarrant later decide he wants legal representation.

In March, Tarrant pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder, and a charge of engaging in a terrorist act after initially pleading not guilty to all charges in June 2019. Due to the guilty plea, there will be no trial. 

During Friday prayer on March 15, 2019, Tarrant opened fire at two central Christchurch mosques, killing 51 people and injuring 49. 

In June, the Royal Commission into the attack on the Christchurch mosques revealed it had interviewed the shooter as part of its ongoing inquiries.

Muslim leaders subsequently called for the interview to be made public, arguing that families of the victims deserve to know what was said.

On Friday, the Government announced it will extend border exception criteria so some overseas victims and their families will be able to attend Tarrant's sentencing.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway released a statement saying the Government would extend border exemption criteria to allow victims and a family member, or support person, to come to New Zealand using new humanitarian grounds.

"I am mindful that the time it may take individuals to submit an application, together with the limited commercial airline flights and the managed quarantine requirements, do make the logistics of getting to New Zealand in this timeframe a challenge," he said.

"I understand the Ministry of Justice has been working with the court to put in place technology options to enable victims who are overseas and unable to travel to view the sentencing hearing and read a Victim Impact Statement remotely."