Christchurch mosque attacks: Jacinda Ardern reacts to Brenton Tarrant's guilty pleas

The Christchurch mosque attack shooter's guilty pleas on Thursday will save victims and families from the "ordeal of a trial", Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

In a surprise move on Thursday in Christchurch, Brenton Tarrant pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and a charge under the Terrorism Suppression Act. It was a reversal from his previous pleas of not-guilty to each charge relating to the Christchurch mosque attack on March 15, 2019, that saw 51 people killed in a shooting rampage across two mosques.

Acknowledging the pleas, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said they 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.

The Prime Minister wouldn't comment anymore as sentencing is yet to happen. It's unknown when that will go ahead as the courts want all victims and families who wish to be present to be able to. Thursday's hearing was affected by the coronavirus COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, which meant only representatives from Al Noor and Linwood Avenue mosques could be present.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush also earlier acknowledged the pleas, including during a press conference in response to the coronavirus lockdown.

"While the sentencing hearing is still pending, today’s guilty pleas are a significant milestone in respect of one of our darkest days. I want to acknowledge the victims, their families and the community of Christchurch – the many lives that were changed forever.  They have inspired all of us to be a kind and more tolerant community," Bush said.

Ardern has previously called March 15 New Zealand's darkest day and refuses to say the now-convicted shooter's name

"He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety," Ardern said last March. 

"That is why you will never hear me mention his name."

The man, a white supremacist, moved to Dunedin from Australia. He live-streamed the attack on Facebook, prompting the development of the Christchurch Call and calls for greater social media moderation.

Having pleaded guilty, the June trial date has been vacated. He is remanded in custody until May 1, when either a sentencing date will be chosen or his remand will be extended.