Mosque shooting trial set for May 2020

Alleged mosque shooter Brenton Harrison Tarrant has denied all 92 charges arising from the March 15 attacks at two Christchurch mosques.

Appearing by video-link from prison in Auckland, the 28-year-old entered the pleas through his lawyers before packed courtrooms at the High Court in Christchurch today.

His trial has been set to begin on May 4, 2020, and will last at least six weeks.

Justice Cameron Mander remanded him for a further case review hearing on August 16.

About 60 victims or families were in the main court where the hearing took place. Others were in another court watching on video screen.

Twenty-two media representing organisations from all over the world were in the court and about another 40 were watching on screens in another room.

No media was allowed to report electronically during the 35-minute hearing, until the judge had made any necessary suppression orders.

Defence counsel Shane Tait told Justice Mander that Tarrant pleaded not guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder, and one charge under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Justice Mander then said that the psychiatric reports had been completed and they showed that there was no issue about Tarrant’s fitness to plead, ability to instruct defence counsel, and stand trial. That meant there was no requirement for a hearing to determine fitness.

Various suppression orders were then clarified or lifted. The names of three alleged victims in the attempted murder charges remained suppressed because they were aged under 18.

Tarrant appeared from a video-link room at Auckland prison, weaing a plain grey prison top. When asked by the judge if he could see and hear proceedings, Tarrant did not speak but nodded. He did not speak or make any gestures throughout the rest of the hearing.

Access to the court house and the courtrooms had been carefully monitored but a normal level of security was in place, and those attending remained respectful and quiet.

Victims and families as well as victims liaison staff, and Muslim community leaders were present. Four cultural advisers were present to help with translations and explanations.

Media were told speakers of 10 languages other than English were watching the proceedings.

A Muslim community leader said to the crowd beforehand: “Salaam alayakum. Today is about all of us getting together to support each other.” He said it was an important, and “grave day” for the community.

The High Court session had further discussions in chambers about procedural matters, which was all suppressed except that Justice Mander provided a summary at the end saying what could be reported.