An Australian gunman who murdered 51 Muslims during the Christchurch mosque massacre has sacked his lawyers and will represent himself.
Brenton Tarrant, 29, announced the shocking move on Monday, just over a month before his sentencing hearing over the two attacks at Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Islamic Centre on March 15 last year.
Tarrant has been convicted of 51 counts of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a charge of engaging in a terrorist act, after pleading guilty to all charges on March 26.
The white supremacist faces life in prison when he fronts Christchurch High Court on August 24th, a delayed-date setback by the coronavirus pandemic.
The hearing is expected to run three or more days.
Auckland-based lawyers Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson have appeared for Tarrant since his second court appearance on April 5 last year.
At a hearing on Monday, they applied to withdraw as his legal counsel upon instructions from Tarrant that he wished to exercise his right to represent himself.
His former lawyers said they were not disappointed by the decision and it was not prompted by animosity.
‘There has been no conflict relationship breakdown,’ Mr Hudson told the NZ Herald after the hearing.
The sentencing date was formally confirmed, with some shooting survivors, family liaison representatives, and senior detectives present.
Tarrant appeared in court from custody via video link, where he was asked by Justice Cameron Mander to confirm his decision.
After the judge was satisfied that Tarrant had accepted to waive his rights to legal representation, the move was approved.
Justice Mander will also appoint a new lawyer in the role of standby counsel, that will be able to assist Tarrant during the court process should he want it.
If the mosque shooter later changes his mind, the counsel will also be available to step in.
Victims and family members were notified first about the development before details of Monday’s hearing were released to the public.
Justice Mander has called for a pre-sentence report and victim impact statements, with The Ministry of Justice working alongside the courts to put technology in place to allow victims overseas, or unable to travel, to read their words at the hearing.
It was announced on Friday that overseas-based victims of the mosque shootings will receive special border passes to fly into New Zealand to see Tarrant sentenced.
The Government said it will extend border exception criteria to help support victims abroad travelling to attend the hearing.