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Court: Christchurch shooting suspect's mental health to be assessed

By
Darryl Coote
Brenton Tarrant (pixelated) will make his first appearance in court Friday. The court mandated that publishers pixelate photos of him before distribution to foreign media. Photo by Martin Hunter/EPA-EFE
Brenton Tarrant (pixelated) will make his first appearance in court Friday. The court mandated that publishers pixelate photos of him before distribution to foreign media. Photo by Martin Hunter/EPA-EFE

April 4 (UPI) -- The Christchurch mosque shooting suspect was ordered to undergo two mental health examinations to determine whether he is mentally fit to plead to the 50 murder and 39 attempted murder charges laid against him.

In his second court appearance since he allegedly killed 50 people and injured 50 more during a shooting at two New Zealand mosques on March 15, Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, listened to Justice Cameron Mander formally record the charges.

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A day following the shooting, Tarrant made his first court appearance and was charged with one count of murder with more expected to follow, but in the Christchurch High Court Friday, Mander said that the initial charge was to be amended as the woman was alive.

Police apologized for the error late March when it was discovered, stating the charge sheet would be amended.

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"New Zealand Police regret this error and apologies for any harm caused by the mistake," a police spokesman had said at the time.

Mander also ordered Tarrant, who appeared in court via an audio-visual link from Auckland Prison some 620 miles from Christchurch in Paremoremo, to undergo a mental health report, which he said was normal procedure.

The court case comes a day after Tarrant appointed two Auckland-based defense lawyers, an about-face from mid-March when he dismissed his duty lawyer stating he would represent himself.

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Barrister Shane Tait said in a statement he and Barrister Jonathan Hudson would be representing Tarrant, Stuff reported.

Tait told the court they will seek a psychiatric assessment for his client, which could take upwards of three months to complete.

Mander then ordered a second consultation to speed up proceedings, despite Tait's objections.

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"Despite Mr Tait's reservations to that initiative ... it's an appropriate step to take at this point to prevent delay," Mander said.

Tarrant was then remanded in custody. His next court appearance was scheduled for June 14.

He was not required to enter a plea.

Friday's court appearance came a day after New Zealand police laid the charges against Tarrant, stating "other charges are still under consideration."

The media, while permitted in the court room, were prohibited from filming, photographing or recording audio of the proceedings.

The media were permitted to take photographs during Tarrant's first court hearing on March 16, but images of him were distorted before they were published or distributed to foreign news companies, Stuff reported.

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