Victims' families watch as Christchurch shooting accused appears in court

The man accused of 50 counts of murder and 39 counts of attempted murder over the Christchurch mosque terrorist attacks has appeared in court this morning.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, made a brief appearance at the High Court in Christchurch via video link from Auckland's high-security Paremoremo Prison, where it's understood he is being kept in solitary confinement.

The families of some of the victims of the shooting were in court, with some crying softly as he appeared. They had been told clearly that he was unable to see them.

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Brenton Tarrant appeared in the High Court at Christchurch via visual link from Auckland on April 5. Source: 1 NEWS

He was dressed in a black sweatshirt and his hands were cuffed to a belt at his waist. There were seven police officers present in the courtroom.

Earlier this week, a High Court judge ruled media would not be allowed to film or take photos of the accused when he appeared.

Justice Cameron Mander asked the accused, "Mr Tarrant can you see me, hear me?" The accused nodded.

An additional 49 murder charges and 39 attempted murder charges were laid since the initial appearance.

The names of all of those surviving victims, charges 51 to 89, have been suppressed.

Yama Nabi, a relative of one of those killed who attended court, told media outside "I just wanted to see his face".

"My mum, the family, the rest of the families - they're not here because they don't want to go through this hard day," Mr Nabi said.

"They're already heartbroken, they don't want to see it anymore."

Two mental health assessments have been ordered under Section 38. Justice Mander made it clear this a normal process and nothing should be read into the fact they've been ordered.

The accused is now being represented by two Auckland defence lawyers - Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson - and will not represent himself as previously believed.

Mr Tait issued a press release this morning confirming he has "accepted instructions" to act on behalf of the accused.

The two lawyers instructed to act on behalf of Brenton Tarrant, the accused Christchurch shooter - Shane Tait, left, and Jonathan Hudson.
The two lawyers instructed to act on behalf of Brenton Tarrant, the accused Christchurch shooter - Shane Tait, left, and Jonathan Hudson. Source: 1 NEWS

"The right to consult and instruct a lawyer and the right to a fair and public hearing are protected rights that the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act provides to every person in this country," Mr Tait wrote.

"In any civilised society the rule of law must prevail."

Fifty Muslim worshipers died in the attacks at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques on March 15, and scores were injured in New Zealand's worst modern act of violence.

Justice Mander said the next court date is June 14, and that "it will be decided on that day if the accused is fit to plead depending on the mental health assessments".

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Families of the victims were in attendance in the Christchurch courtroom as he appeared via video link. Source: 1 NEWS