Christchurch shooting: Government extends border exception criteria so some overseas victims, families can attend the sentencing of Brenton Tarrant

Some overseas victims and families of the Christchurch mosque attacks will be able to attend the sentencing of the gunman next month, with the announcement the Government is extending border exception criteria.

Gunman Brenton Tarrant pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a charge of committing a terrorist act in March.

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

Tarrant killed 51 people and injured another 49 when he opened fire at two Christchurch mosques in March 2019. His sentencing has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lees-Galloway said the Government wanted to support the Muslim community and those living offshore who were directly impacted by the shooting.

"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."

The extension will help overseas victims and their families engage in the criminal justice system, Victim Support said.

"Victim Support will continue to work closely with victims, and their support people, to enable them to attend [the] sentencing," said chief executive Kevin Tso.

Ministry of Justice chief operating officer Carl Crafar said the exception recognises the unprecedented nature of the shooting and the trauma it caused for victims.

Brenton Tarrant.
Brenton Tarrant. Photo credit: Newshub.

"Sentencing is an important part of our justice process," he said.

Tarrant changed his plea to guilty in March, having originally pleaded not guilty to all charges in June last year.