Man accused of killing 51 worshippers at Christchurch mosques pleads not guilty to all charges, to stand trial next May

The man accused of carrying out the Christchurch terror attack on March 15 has denied all charges laid against him.

Brenton Tarrant during first court appearance on March 16, 2019 Source: 1 NEWS

Brenton Tarrant entered not guilty pleas to 51 murder charges, 40 attempted murder charges, a charge of engaging in a terrorist act, through his lawyers Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson.

The trial is currently set to begin on May 4 2020, and the Crown believes it will take six weeks, but this will be finalised at a later date.

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As 1 NEWS reporter Thomas Mead explains, Brenton Tarrant will stand trial in May 2020. Source: 1 NEWS

The 28-year-old Australian is accused of entering the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch on March 15, opening fire on worshippers with military-grade guns as they gathered for Friday prayers.

The court heard that two psychiatric assessments had found Tarrant was mentally fit enough to enter pleas, instruct lawyers and stand trial.

He was not present in court and appeared through an audio-visual link from Auckland Prison at Paremoremo, which was shown on a large TV set in the court room.

A large number of shooting survivors and family members of the victims were present in court for the hearing, with extra court-rooms set up to accommodate them.

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A trial has now been set to begin just under a year from now. Source: 1 NEWS

The accused sat quietly and was largely emotionless while the plea was read by his lawyers, but on at least one occasion was seen smirking or smiling.

Family members watching on did also not react, with some watching the image intently while others chose to look away.

Applications to film and record the hearing were declined, but the judge has allowed image suppression to lapse and permitted images taken at a prior appearance to be shown.

The hearing was split into two parts with a public call, where members of public and families were allowed to sit in court. The hearing was later moved to a closed ‘chambers’ session to discuss administrative matters, which cannot be reported on by the media.

The accused was remanded in custody for a case review on August 16, but this date may change.