The Christchurch Shooter Could Be Handed An Unprecedented Jail Sentence Later This Week

The Australian man who murdered 51 Muslims during prayer in Christchurch will be sentenced this week, with the sentencing expected to take four days.

Brenton Tarrant, a self-confessed white supremacist, live-streamed the March 2019 shooting on Facebook. He pleaded guilty in March this year to 51 murder charges, 40 attempted murder charges, and one charge of committing a terrorist act.

Over the course of four days, more than 60 survivors and family members of the victims will give victim impact statements. Some people have travelled from overseas to give a victim impact statement, undergoing the mandatory two weeks of quarantine.

“Finality and closure is considered by some as the best means of bringing relief to the Muslim community,” Judge Cameron Mander said in the lead-up to the sentencing.

He had delayed the sentencing in order to give people as much time to travel to New Zealand as possible. It’s expected 66 people will give statements over the four days.

One of the people providing a victim impact statement is Mazharuddin Syed Ahmed, who was praying in the Linwood mosque during the shooting.

He told SBS News it is his “utmost responsibility” to speak on behalf of people who died that day.

“I have friends who have severe bullet injuries. One of my friends has completely lost his hand, the other, his right leg is completely impaired,” he said.

“[I want to] let the whole world know, remind very strongly, how this act of hate is exponentially catastrophic, like a chain reaction which never ends.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was important for the Christchurch victims to be heard.

I don’t think there’s anything I can say that is going to ease how traumatic that period is going to be,” she said on Friday.

“The whole process is likely to take some time, that’s as it should be, people need to be heard.”

Tarrant is facing a life sentence, with a non-parole period of 17 years. However, in what would be an unprecedented decision for a New Zealand court, Judge Mander has the option to sentence him without the possibility of parole.

The court has also taken steps to ensure Tarrant doesn’t use his court appearance to inflict further harm or to spout neo-Nazi propaganda, such as when he flashed the ‘okay’ symbol during his first court appearance. Live updates have been banned, with Judge Cameron informing media at the end of each day what can and cannot be reported.