Christchurch shooting: Brenton Tarrant's sentencing date announced

The sentencing hearing for Christchurch mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant will begin on August 24, 2020.

Tarrant pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a charge of committing a terorist act on March 26. Due to the guilty plea, there will be no trial.

Justice Cameron Mander released a minute and said it's estimated the hearing will last three days, but it will take as long as it needs to. It will begin at 10am on August 24.

Fifty-one people were killed and 49 injured at two central Christchurch mosques in March 2019 when Tarrant opened fire during Friday prayer.

Justice Mander said appropriate technology will be in place so victims based overseas who can't travel to New Zealand can view and participate in the hearing remotely. This includes video conferencing facilities so victims can present their victim impact statement and communicate with the courtroom.

He hopes this sentencing date will give victims who live overseas enough time to make travel arrangements and comply with the compulsory two-week quarantine period for arrivals into New Zealand.

"With limited exceptions, New Zealand's borders are closed to everyone other than citizens and residents... This situation is placing significant constraints on the ability of persons overseas to enter the country."

Justice Mander said inquiries have been taken over the last three months to find potential ways victims and family members could travel to New Zealand to attend the sentencing, or participate in other ways during the hearing.

Before the date was set, Victim Support said only preliminary travel logistics could be planned and firm arrangements couldn't be made.

"There are a number of difficulties associated with making these arrangements, including obtaining the cooperation of transit countries and securing suitable flights. Any persons returning will have to abide by the 14-day quarantine requirement."

Justice Mander said the Ministry of Justice has been liaising with Immigration New Zealand (INZ) to see whether any victims and support people who are overseas but aren't New Zealand residents or citizens could enter the country under the "limited exceptions" process.

However, INZ hasn't been able to confirm whether this process could be made available to overseas victims and their families.

"Because of the uncertainty about whether and how the process would apply, I am advised that the Ministry [of Justice] has not been able to advance this possibility with overseas victims," Justice Mander said.

Because victims also live in Australia, inquiries were made into whether a trans-Tasman travel bubble would be in-place in time for the hearing. But an estimate couldn't be given since the COVID-19 situation is constantly changing.

"While some victims have adequate support from family members and extended family who live in New Zealand, there is a smaller number who wish to have overseas-based family members with them for support during the sentencing hearing," he said.

"However, waiting for changes to the border controls will likely result in a very extended period of delay. I am also aware that many of the victims have found the elongated court process to be exhausting and frustrating. They wish sentencing to happen as soon as realistically possible. Finality and closure is considered by some as the best means of bringing relief to the Muslim community."

Tarrant initially pleaded not guilty to all charges in June 2019. However, in March he changed his plea to guilty on all charges.

His subsequent sentencing was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic since victims living overseas wouldn't be able to attend.