Christchurch mosque attack sentencing: High possibility gunman gets life without parole - law professor

Warning: This article discusses some details of the Christchurch mosque attack.

A law professor believes there's a high possibility the Christchurch mosque gunman will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Sentencing for 29-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant will enter a third day at the High Court in Christchurch on Wednesday.

The rest of the victim impact statements will be read before submissions are heard. 

Auckland University law professor Mark Henaghan says a hefty sentence is likely due to it being the worst murder crime in New Zealand's history.

Henaghan told The AM Show on Wednesday morning the case is unprecedented.

"If the Judge thinks this is the only way we can find this offender accountable or if it's the only way we can denounce this offence, or it's the only way we can deter others and the offender himself, and protect the community, the Judge can then give the maximum penalty which is life without parole - this looks likes where it's heading in this particular case.

"That is allowed under the legislation to give that particular sentence - that is the maximum sentence you can give in New Zealand." 

Tarrant has pleaded guilty to all 92 charges against him. Henaghan said that the guilty plea will do little to impact the time he gets behind bars.

"Given the horrendous aggravating factors in this case; the numbers of murders, the deliberateness of it all, the vulnerability of the people, the fact that it was a terrorist crime, the fact it was a hate crime - all of those things are very strong aggravating factors."

Mark Henaghan.
Mark Henaghan. Photo credit: The AM Show

Victims return to court

More victims are due to describe their lives after March 15 at the Christchurch terrorism hearing on Wednesday - a hearing that took a passionate turn on Tuesday.

One after the other, victims on Tuesday branded the gunman "the biggest loser", "gutless" and "a coward living like a rat who deserves the death penalty". Some described feeling empowered and stronger in their faith.

When the gunman was told he was the terrorist and not the community he had attacked  - applause broke out.

Brenton Tarrant is being sentenced at the High Court in Christchurch for the mosque killings on March 15, 2019. The hearing is ongoing.