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Trial of Christchurch mosque attack accused may be delayed

Anneke Smith, Court reporter, in Christchurch

The trial next year of the accused Christchurch mosque gunman may be delayed by a month in accordance with the wishes of the victims, the High Court at Christchurch has been told.

The Christchurch court building (file). Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Australian national Brenton Tarrant is due to stand trial on 4 May next year. He has pleaded not guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one charge of terrorism relating to the 15 March attacks on two Christchurch mosques.

The trial date has troubled the Muslim victims of the mass shooting who will be fasting in the middle of Islam's holy month of Ramadan.

This morning at the accused's fourth court hearing Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh said the trial date was being reviewed.

The court was told it may be delayed by three to four weeks, which would ensure there is no overlap with Ramadan.

Mr Zarifeh said the Crown was working with the registry to see whether a new trial date was possible.

Arguments over an application to move the trial out of Christchurch will be heard on 3 October.

Today marks five months since a gunman opened fire at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques; killing 51 worshippers and injuring dozens more.

Only a handful of victims could be identified in the public gallery today. Previous court hearings have been attended by large numbers, but close to 200 people are at present overseas making the holy pilgrimage to Mecca.

Leading police officers in the case sat in the front of the public gallery, where there were also victim advisers and court staff.

Armed officers guarded the front and back entrances of the Justice Precinct for the hearing, which was attended by a dozen media representatives from New Zealand and Australian outlets.

Brenton Tarrant's appearance was excused today but he was represented in court by Auckland lawyers Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson.

The bulk of the hearing was limited to legal arguments relating the the Criminal Disclosure Act that cannot be publicised until the case is over.

However, Justice Mander told the court it was in the interests of open justice to keep the public gallery open so those affected could see and hear the criminal process.

The accused has been remanded in custody until trial callover on 3 October.

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