An Australian gunman who murdered 51 Muslims during the Christchurch mosque massacre has sacked his lawyers and will represent himself.
Brenton Tarrant, 29, announced the shocking move on Monday, just over a month before his sentencing hearing over the two attacks at Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Islamic Centre on March 15 last year.
Tarrant has been convicted of 51 counts of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a charge of engaging in a terrorist act, after pleading guilty to all charges on March 26.
The white supremacist faces life in prison when he fronts Christchurch High Court on August 24th, a delayed-date setback by the coronavirus pandemic.
Brenton Tarrant, 29, has sacked his lawyers to represent himself at his sentencing hearing on August 24. He is pictured during his video-link appearance in the High Court at Christchurch earlier this year, where he pleaded guilty
The hearing is expected to run three or more days.
Auckland-based lawyers Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson have appeared for Tarrant since his second court appearance on April 5 last year.
At a hearing on Monday, they applied to withdraw as his legal counsel upon instructions from Tarrant that he wished to exercise his right to represent himself.
His former lawyers said they were not disappointed by the decision and it was not prompted by animosity.
‘There has been no conflict relationship breakdown,’ Mr Hudson told the NZ Herald after the hearing.
The sentencing date was formally confirmed, with some shooting survivors, family liaison representatives, and senior detectives present.
Tarrant appeared in court from custody via video link, where he was asked by Justice Cameron Mander to confirm his decision.
After the judge was satisfied that Tarrant had accepted to waive his rights to legal representation, the move was approved.
Auckland-based lawyers Shane Tait (left) and Jonathan Hudson (right) said they were not ‘disappointed’ by Tarrant’s decision
Tarrant, who is originally from Grafton in NSW, first entered the Al Noor Mosque as Friday prayers were beginning and opened fire (pictured during his first court appearance on March 16, 2019)
Justice Mander will also appoint a new lawyer in the role of standby counsel, that will be able to assist Tarrant during the court process should he want it.
If the mosque shooter later changes his mind, the counsel will also be available to step in.
Victims and family members were notified first about the development before details of Monday’s hearing were released to the public.
Justice Mander has called for a pre-sentence report and victim impact statements, with The Ministry of Justice working alongside the courts to put technology in place to allow victims overseas, or unable to travel, to read their words at the hearing.
It was announced on Friday that overseas-based victims of the mosque shootings will receive special border passes to fly into New Zealand to see Tarrant sentenced.
The Government said it will extend border exception criteria to help support victims abroad travelling to attend the hearing.
‘We want to support our valued Muslim brothers and sisters who were directly affected by this tragic event and understand that some who are now offshore do want to attend the sentencing,’ said Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.
The Australian white supremacist is originally from Grafton in northern NSW but had moved to Dunedin in New Zealand’s South Island
The horrific terror attack in Christchurch, which left 51 worshipers dead, has been described as New Zealand’s darkest day (Pictured: victims)
‘We have quickly established a process to allow victims and a family member or support person to come to New Zealand using new humanitarian grounds. This is within our intent for the use of this provision.’
Tarrant had originally pleaded not guilty and was preparing to stand trial on June 2, before changing his plea earlier this year.
Tarrant stormed two mosques in Christchurch, on New Zealand‘s South Island last year, killing 51 Muslim worshipers and injuring dozens more.
He live-streamed the horror attack on Facebook.
Tarrant first entered the Al Noor Mosque as Friday prayers were beginning and opened fire.
Worshipers scrambled as the shots rang out. Some managed to smash windows to escape, while others had to lay with the bloodied bodies and pretend to be dead.
Tarrant then drove to the Linwood Mosque on the other side of the city and continued shooting.
Masjid An-Nur mosque is seen just after dawn ahead of a special Juma Friday prayer service being held at Horncastle Arena on March 13, 2020, to commemorate last year’s attacks
Members of the Tu Tangata Iwi Tapu Motorcycle Club visit the Masjid An-Nur mosque in support of the Christchurch Muslim community on the first anniversary of the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history
Members of the the public grieve at a makeshift memorial at the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Rd in Christchurch, New Zealand after the attack in March 2019
Two police officers managed to finally stop the shooter by ramming their car into his gold Subaru Outback.
They dragged Tarrant out of the car, and he was arrested.
Inside the car were improvised explosive devices, which were later disarmed.
A 73-page manifesto was published detailing how his actions were racially motivated and how he was inspired by Norway mass killer Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 in 2011.
Both the live-stream and the manifesto are illegal to obtain or read in New Zealand.
Tarrant, who describes himself as a far-right fascist, came to his radical views from conversations in dark corners on the internet, consolidated on trips to Europe.
He grew up in the northern New South Wales town of Grafton, moving to New Zealand in 2017 and settling in the South Island town of Dunedin.
TIMELINE OF TERROR: HOW THE CHRISTCHURCH MASSACRE THAT CLAIMED 51 LIVES UNFOLDED
A 28-year-old Australian man entered a mosque in central Christchurch on Friday afternoon and opened fire on people gathered inside the building – killing 51 people and leaving dozens more injured.
This is how the incident unfolded in local New Zealand Time on March 15, 2019.
1.40pm: First reports of a shooting at a mosque in central Christchurch.
A man entered the mosque with an automatic weapon and opened fire on people inside.
2.11pm: Police confirmed they were attending an ‘evolving situation’ in Christchruch.
Gunshots are heard in the area outside Masid Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue.
Witnesses reported hearing multiple gunshots, with one saying she attempted to give CPR to an injured person but they died.
2.17pm: Multiple schools went into lockdown in Christchurch.
People who were in the mosque began to leave covered in blood and with gunshot wounds.
2.47pm: First reports of six people dead, three in a critical condition and three with serious injuries.
2.54pm: Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the situation is ‘serious and evolving’ and told people to remain indoors and stay off the streets.
The Canterbury District Health Board activated its mass casualty plan.
3.12pm: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cancelled her afternoon arrangements.
3.21pm: Christchurch City Council locked down many of their central city buildings.
3.33pm: First reports of a bomb in a beige Subaru that crashed on Strickland Street, three kilometres from the shootings.
3.40pm: Police confirmed there were multiple simultaneous attacks on mosques in Christchurch.
3.45pm: Reports of multiple shots fired at the shootings, which are ongoing.
3.59pm: 300 people were reported to be inside the moque.
4.00pm: One person is confirmed to be in custody but there are warnings there may be others out there.
Police commissioner Mike Bush urges Muslims across New Zealand to stay away from their local mosque.
4.10pm: Jacinda Ardern calls Friday ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days’.
5.27pm: First reports of a second shooting.
A witness said a Muslim local chased the shooters at the mosque in Linwood, firing in ‘self defence’.
5.31pm: Four people are confirmed to be in custody. including one woman.
Multiple fatalities were reported.
7.07pm: It was confirmed an AR15 rifle was used in the attack.
7.20pm: Dunedin Street was cordoned off.
Reports the attackers planned to also target the Al Huda Mosque.
7.26pm: At least 40 people were confirmed dead, Jacinda Ardern confirmed.
7.34pm: Confirmed that 48 people were being treated in hospital.
7.46pm: Britomart train station in central Auckland was evacuated after bags were found unattended.
The bags were deemed not suspicious.
8.35pm: New Zealand’s Government confirmed this is the first time ever the terror level has been lifted from low to high.
9.03pm: Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirms that the death toll has risen to 49.
Brenton Tarrant was later charged with murder, and the death toll rose to 51.