Mental health assessments ordered for accused shooter

By Jessica Tyson

The man accused of murdering 50 people in the Christchurch mosque terror attacks appeared in court this morning.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, from Australia, appeared in the High Court in Christchurch via video link from Auckland where he is being held in Paremoremo Prison, New Zealand's only maximum security facility.

Last month Tarrant was charged with a single charge of murder.  Today an additional 49 murder charges and 39 attempted murder charges were laid.

The alleged gunman is no longer representing himself and is now being represented by two Auckland defence lawyers Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson.

Mental health assessment

A document provided to media by the court today said a mental health assessment has been ordered for Tarrant.

According to the document, defence lawyer Tait said he had arranged for the defendant to be the subject of a psychiatric assessment, which would take months to complete.

However, Crown prosecutor Barnaby Hawes insisted assessment reports under the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003 should be sought instead to avoid further delay.

The court then made an order for two health assessors to prepare assessment reports to determine whether the defendant is mentally impaired and whether he is fit to stand trial.

“Whether pleas will be required to be entered on that day will depend on the result of the mental health inquiries and any other developments that may occur over the remand period,” the court said.

Names suppressed

The names of the 39 people who it is alleged Tarrant attempted to murder have been suppressed on an interim basis, the court said.

Concern was expressed in court today that the publication of their names could interfere with their recovery following the traumatic experience.