Christchurch mass murderer sacks lawyers ahead of sentencing

Christchurch Mosque. Editorial credit: rootstudio

The gunman who killed dozens of worshippers at New Zealand mosques last year has sacked his lawyers and will represent himself when he is sentenced next month.

Australian white supremacist Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29, pleaded guilty in March to 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder, and one count of terrorism following the shootings in Christchurch on 15 March 2019.

On Monday, his lawyers asked the High Court in Christchurch for permission to withdraw as his counsel, which they said he had requested.

A judge approved the request, saying he was satisfied Tarrant understood his right to legal representation and wished to waive that right.

A lawyer will still be appointed by the court to provide advice if he requests it.

His sentencing, beginning on August 24, is due to last for up to three days, following the attacks at the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre last year.

New Zealand Criminal Bar Association president Len Andersen QC said Tarrant would now be entitled to make submissions at the sentencing.

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“He will be able to speak, the court won’t be able to stop him speaking,” Andersen said.

“The judge will be able to control what is said to matters that are relevant to sentencing, but the difficulty that the judge may well have is determining what is relevant to sentencing.”

If the defendant were to speak about things beyond specifically addressing sentencing he would run the risk of losing credit for his guilty plea, which in normal circumstances can allow for a reduction in sentence of up to 25 per cent, Andersen said.

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