Christchurch shooting suspect ordered to undergo mental health tests

Monday, 08 Apr, 2019

Brenton Tarrant, 28, will on Friday appear in the High Court at Christchurch, three weeks on from the shootings that killed 50 people.

The Christchurch mosque shooting suspect was ordered to undergo two mental health examinations to determine whether he is mentally fit to plead to the 50 murder and 39 attempted murder charges laid against him.

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If convicted, Tarrant will be sentenced with life imprisonment without parole, and a confirmation that he is one among the deadliest white-nationalist-inspired mass murderers in recent years. He had sacked a court-appointed lawyer after his first appearance in court.

He is scheduled to appear in court by video link on Friday, but is not required to enter pleas to the charges.

The judge said he had received applications from 25 media organizations to take film, photographs or audio recordings of Friday's hearing but had denied all of them.

He will face the new charges when he appears in front of the Christchurch High Court here on April 5, according to New Zealand police.

During his first appearance in court on March 16, the courtroom was closed to the public, the name of the victim was withheld by authorities and a judge ruled that pictures of the suspect in court must have his face blurred.

He was charged at the time with one count of murder and remanded in custody without a plea.

"They are coming from far just to say sorry. although they never did anything to us", said Hossain, 26.

A note from the court this week said the appearance was likely to be brief and would "ascertain the defendant's position regarding legal representation" and other procedural matters.

Retired law professor Bill Hodge said the idea behind obscuring his image was that the prosecution might need a witness to be sure he saw the gunman at the mosque rather than recognizing him from media stories.

Tarrant was not on government watchlist in New Zealand or Australian.

He noted the initial murder charge, which named a woman who was in fact alive, was to be amended and suppressed that woman's name.

It said he had no access to television, radio or newspapers and no visitors.