18 Aug 2020

Christchurch mosque attacks: Attendees at sentencing halved

5:26 pm on 18 August 2020

The number of people able to attend the sentencing of the Christchurch mosque shooting gunman has been almost halved due to the re-emergence of Covid-19.

Flowers at the gate of the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch today.

Flowers at the gate of the Al Noor Mosque, after it was attacked in 2019. Photo: RNZ / Isra'a Emhail

Brenton Tarrant will be sentenced next week for the murder of 51 people in the attacks on two Christchurch mosques in March last year.

He is also facing 40 counts of attempted murder and one charge under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Justice Cameron Mander has this evening issued details laying out how the sentencing will proceed in the High Court at Christchurch under alert level 2.

It was expected about 400 victims, their families and support people could attend the sentencing.

But Justice Mander said the law courts could now only accommodate about 230 visitors under the restrictions.

Only victims and 10 members of the media would be allowed into the main courtroom, along with court staff and officials. However, seven additional courtrooms would be made available for victims and their support networks.

Under level 2, courts are expected to maintain physical distancing of one metre, although those in whānau groups are not required to distance.

"Access to the main courtroom will be reserved for victims, their families and their support people. The number of victims who can be safely accommodated in this courtroom with appropriate physical distancing at any one time is 35," Justice Mander said.

"Victims who have chosen to present victim impact statements to the court in person will still be able to do so.

"The court has requested that victims in New Zealand who may not now be able to attend because of the limits on the numbers - should wherever possible, be given access to the livestream of the sentencing, which has been organised for victims who are overseas and unable to be present in person.

"Personal protective equipment (face masks and gloves) will be available to all those attending court and appropriate hygiene measures will be in place to minimise the risk of transmission."

The hearing is likely to take four days, with 66 victims advising they want their victim impact statement to be read in court.

There will be strict conditions imposed on media, including those based overseas.

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