Revealed: Mosque terrorist tried to avoid fronting up to victims

Christchurch mosque killer Brenton Tarrant, repeatedly branded a "gutless coward" by his victims this week, tried to get out of appearing at his own sentencing, it can be revealed.

New court documents released to the New Zealand Herald show that the 29-year-old Australian mass killer applied for permission to appear at his sentencing by way of audio-visual link (AVL) only.

The move – lodged in May after his shock guilty pleas and opposed by Crown lawyers – was rejected by Justice Cameron Mander.

The judge raised concerns that Tarrant was trying to "avoid having to face the consequences of being publicly held accountable for his offending".

Tarrant was yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment without parole - the first time in New Zealand's history the sentence has been imposed - meaning he "will never see the light of day again", as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put it.

He had admitted murdering 51 people and attempting to murder 49 others in Christchurch last year.

The Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010 says AVL can be used during sentencing – at a judge's discretion.

Justice Cameron Mander said any further delays to sentencing the mosque gunman would be ...
Justice Cameron Mander. Photo: NZ Herald

Tarrant's then lawyers – before he sacked them – tried arguing that suitable technology would've been available and that it had been used at earlier court appearances. They said there had been no issues with the quality of the link and that AVL technology wouldn't have adversely affected their client's ability to follow proceedings or engage with them.

They also claimed it would have resulted in "significant cost saving" by not having to securely transfer him from Auckland to Christchurch.

In the Crown's strong opposition, they pointed to the "nature and seriousness of the charges" and the number of victims, along with the impact of his offending.

The Crown lawyers said sentencing would "assume greater importance for the victims, as it has now become the focal point of the criminal proceeding and there is no reason why such an important part of the criminal justice process ought not to be conducted in the usual way with the defendant physically present in the courtroom".

Justice Mander declined Tarrant's move – ordering him to be in court.

The judge said Tarrant would be a "critical participant and his physical presence is an important component of the administration of justice in this case".

"The only apparent justification appears to be the defendant's preference, which cannot displace the ordinary need for a defendant to be physically before the court for the purpose of being sentenced in the circumstances of such a serious case as this," Justice Mander ruled.

"Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done."

The judge expressed concern that Tarrant "may well now be seeking to distance himself or disengage from the criminal process".

"His trepidation may be understandable but the sentencing hearing will be conducted in accordance with the ordinary rules and disciplines that apply to such a proceeding and arrangements will be made to ensure his security," he said.

"I am concerned that the defendant's request could be interpreted as an attempt to withdraw from the sentencing process to avoid having to face the consequences of being publicly held accountable for his offending.

"The interests of justice do not favour the encouragement or aiding of such a strategy."

During earlier pre-trial hearings, the courtroom has often been packed with victims and family members.

The judge noted that "good order has been maintained" throughout, with no reported interruptions or difficulties.

"There is no reason to believe those present will not conduct themselves in an appropriate way in accordance with the rules and protocols that govern behaviour in the courtroom."

As Tarrant sat silent throughout the four-day sentencing this week, the victims and their families of his attack, stood strong and unleashed their feelings towards the 29-year-old Australian.

Yesterday, Justice Mander said Tarrant was "empty of any empathy" for his victims and "detached" and he appeared entirely self-centred.

He said Tarrant had "no apparent mental orders or psychiatric conditions" nor were any cognitive disorders present.

There was no evidence of a personality disorder – but his racist beliefs "developed and intensified" as he got older.

A psychologist said Tarrant "proudly" saw himself as a white European with an air of superiority and grandiosity - which may reflect narcissistic traits.

He also told the psychologist that he no longer holds the beliefs – that they were "not real" and at the time of the attack he was in a "poisoned mental state" and was "terribly unhappy".

He was "ostracised" by society and "wanted to damage society as act of revenge".

Tarrant told the psychologist he "wasn't thinking right at the time" and was "acting on delusional beliefs".

However Justice Mander said that simply did not wash with him.

"Your recent self-generated denunciation of your extreme ideology requires circumspection," he said.

"It's uncorroborated, self-serving and a relatively recent phenomenon."

 

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