Australian convicted of Christchurch mosque attack to be sentenced in August

A three-day court sitting will be held on August 24, after delays related to the coronavirus pandemic

Al Noor mosque Christchurch
 Brenton Tarrant pleaded guilty to 92 charges relating to New Zealand’s worst mass shooting in history, at two mosques in Christchurch Photograph: Kai Schwörer/Getty Images

The Australian man convicted of the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings will be sentenced during an expected three-day court sitting beginning August 24.

New Zealand High Court Justice Cameron Mander announced the sentencing date, which had been delayed due to Covid-19, on Friday. The court will allow the use of videolink technology so overseas-based victims can view the proceedings and take part if they wish.

Brenton Tarrant, who confessed to the crimes in March, is expected to be sentenced to life in jail for 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism.

Tarrant, 29, live-streamed his attack on Al-Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre, before being apprehended by police.

Each of the 51 people the white supremacist murdered were Muslim.

Since Tarrant’s shock plea reversal, the High Court has been exploring ways of allowing as many victims and family members, many of whom are based overseas, to participate in the sentencing.

Justice Mander said the court had been in contact with NZ government departments, given the current border closure and 14-day mandatory isolation for international arrivals.

Australian officials were also contacted, given the strong contingent living there, and given the possibility of a trans-Tasman travel bubble.

Justice Mander said he balanced the setting of the date for sentencing next month, which would preclude the participation of overseas-based victims and families, against the strong desire for closure from local community members.

“The added trauma to victims from having to cope with the justice process is a particular concern for the court,” he said in a court minute.

“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.”

Justice Mander said people based overseas will be able to present victim impact statements using videoconferencing technology or simply watch the proceedings over a live streaming link.

Kiwi citizens or regular residents will be able to travel to New Zealand, but will not be able to circumvent the 14-day isolation requirement.

Justice Mander said the court estimated the sentencing would take three days “but the hearing will take as long as is necessary”.

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