Christchurch mosque murderer pleads guilty to all charges

This is a surprise, but a good one – Christchurch mosque attacks: Gunman pleads guilty to all charges

At the High Court in Christchurch, Brenton Tarrant admitted 51 of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Until today he had denied all of the charges and was scheduled to stand trial in June. The guilty plea means he has become New Zealand’s first convicted terrorist.

The 29 year old showed no emotion as he appeared via audio visual link in the High Court at around 10am.

No explanation for Tarrant’s change of heart was given during today’s hearing. He has been remanded in custody until May.

No sentencing date has been set as the courts continue to grapple with widespread disruption from the Covid-19 outbreak.

Any possible ambitions of using the trial for grandstanding seems to have dissipated.

This is great news for the victims’ families who now don’t have to have the horror brought up time and time again in court.

From the Judge’s minute on today’s hearing that explains some of the proceeding:

[1] Earlier this week the Court received an indication from the defendant’s counsel that he may seek to change his plea to the charges. Yesterday, counsel received formal written instructions to that effect. A formal request was then made by the defendant that he be brought before the Court, in accordance with s 42(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011, to change his plea.

[2] As a result of that request the charges have been put to him this morning. He has pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and the charge of committing a terrorist act. He has been convicted of each and every one of
those charges. There is now no need for a trial and the six week hearing set down for June can be vacated.

[12] Despite the defendant having provided his counsel with written instructions of his intention to change his plea to guilty and he having now done so, there was of course no guarantee that when the charges were read to him this morning he would in fact do so. It was therefore necessary to suppress the fact that the matter was being called and the purpose of the hearing.

[13] Section 43 of the Criminal Procedure Act provides that where a defendant indicates an intention to plead guilty but does not go ahead and plead guilty, the defendant must be treated in all respects as if he or she had not indicated any intention
to plead guilty, and no comment may be made in any subsequent proceedings of that fact. The fact that a defendant has indicated an intention to plead guilty is not admissible in evidence against a defendant. It follows that any prior publication or
disclosure to the public of the defendant’s intention to plead guilty had the potential to prejudice his trial and taint the jury pool with information that should not be within their knowledge.

[14] For that reason no prior notice was able to be provided to the victims and their families of the defendant’s intention to plead guilty, nor of the convening of this morning’s hearing. Because of that requirement and the circumstances that prevent
them being here today, were I to permit members of the media to immediately report on the content and outcome of this morning’s hearing, it is likely that the first those persons – victims and their families – would hear of this significant development, in which they have so much invested, would be through the media, in the same way as the general public. That would be an undesirable state of affairs and is directly linked with having to proceed in their absence.

[15] To try and avoid that situation or, at least, to some degree mitigate the impact on the victims and their families’ of the lost opportunity to immediately learn of the defendant’s change of plea first-hand by attending Court, I intend to embargo publication of any report about this morning’s hearing for one hour – that is until 11.30 am this morning. The police and Victim Support Advisors have made arrangements in anticipation of the defendant pleading guilty to notify victims and their families as soon as possible. I would ask for your forbearance in permitting them the opportunity to carry out that task. There will be an interim suppression order suppressing publication of the fact of this morning’s hearing and the content and outcome of the
hearing, including of course the fact that the defendant has changed his pleas until 11.30 am.

Click to access R-v-Tarrant-20200326.pdf

Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  26th March 2020

    Has Tarrant regained sanity? What can you do with a man like that to make the world a better place?

    • Duker

       /  26th March 2020

      I hope its not part of a plea deal to avoid Life without possibility of Parole

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  26th March 2020

      As the loony was loony enough to video himself, he can hardly do otherwise.

      I couldn’t help thinking of the 3 year old running smiling towards the funny man who was about to kill him when I was playing with a Muslim child about the same age a couple of weeks ago; a beautiful little girl.

  2. Police say the Christchurch mosque shooter will not be sentenced until all victims who want to attend the hearing can do so.

    “Due to the Covid-19 epidemic that will not be possible for some time. The Defendant has therefore been further remanded in custody until 1 May 2020, at which time the position will be reviewed and either a sentencing date will be set or there will be a further remand in custody.”

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  26th March 2020

      That’s sensible at least. He will spend his life in gaol that we will pay for. I hope some way will be found for him to pay something back of more value than his own misery.

      • Duker

         /  26th March 2020

        The sentencing was never going to happen for quite a while after the trial anyway.

        This has the hall marks of a ‘stitchup’, the announcement rushed through this week while the news du jour is occupied on other matters.

  3. An interesting view from peterwn at Kiwiblog:

    I am going to get downticks galore, but I do not think anyone should be sentenced to life without parole meaning that there is never any review possible. I very much doubt the sentencing judge would impose life without parole in the light of the ‘second strike’ murder sentencings. The judge will find a reason that it would be manifestly unjust and that would not be overturned on appeal.

    Assuming Crown Law accepted a plea bargain, it could be very much that Crown Law is of the view that Life Without Parole will not be imposed by the sentencing judge.

    Even though it could be condemned as a ‘sellout’, I think that it is an excellent outcome.

    Organising and going through with a jury trial would have been a horrendous exercise.
    Moreover he has denied himself a possible rostrum to spout his views and that is a good thing. Even if he was present the judge would probably have needed to send him to the cells anyway. The outstanding issue would be whether he should be brought to Christchurch for sentencing, but this would be fairly easy as the RNZAF can fly him down and back the same day.

    Even if he does not get life without parole in reality he would never be paroled except perhaps to a maximum security mental facility

    • Duker

       /  26th March 2020

      They forget that as an Australian he would be deported back to his own country once his jail sentence ends …thus removing any parole restrictions we might have dreamt up.

      peterwn seems to have have some made up stuff about a ‘mental health facility’ for parole.
      hes not mad in the legal sense and no facility would keep him just to make it look good.

      And Im sure thats what has bought about this sudden remorse – he was a difficult prisoner still writing to supporters with his twisted philosophy- the hope he will get out from under NZs control back in Australia at some stage.
      The Mosque worshipers died here , let him do so as well.

    • Duker

       /  26th March 2020

      So it’s a coincidence this occurred out of the blue once the 1 year anniversary had passed and as the lockdown process had started.
      It suggests the ‘ indications’ came from only defence lawyers and yet we know Crown solicitor would have been interested in a plea deal as well.

      • It may be that Tarrant had been considering it and decided to do it while there was a huge distraction.

        Or he could have been hoping to get the normal sort of sentence discount for a guilty plea, he may have figured that it could reduce the sentence to less than life with no parole. Or he may have just decided he was over it all.

        But we can only guess, no reason was given and no reason has to be given.


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