Accused Christchurch gunman Brenton Tarrant has dismissed his lawyer with plans to represent himself during his trial for the biggest mass murder in modern New Zealand history.
Richard Peters, who represented Tarrant in court on Saturday, told The New Zealand Herald on Monday that he was no longer representing the alleged killer, confirming that the 28-year-old Australian had told him he wanted to represent himself in future.
“What did seem apparent to me is he seemed quite clear and lucid, whereas this may seem like very irrational behaviour,” he told the newspaper. “He didn’t appear to me to be facing any challenges or mental impairment other than holding fairly extreme views.”
He said the decision could be because Tarrant wanted to turn the trial into a platform for his beliefs.
“I suspect that he won’t shy away from publicity, and that will probably be the way he runs the trial. The job of the trial judge will be to deal with that,” Peters added.
Tarrant has been charged with murder after 50 people were killed in a shocking attack on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday. He is scheduled to appear in the High Court on April 5 where he is expected to enter a plea. Bail was not applied for and formally refused.
The development comes as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed there will be changes to New Zealand’s gun laws following the massacre.
The prime minister said her cabinet will consider the details of the changes on Monday, Herald Sun reports. She has said options include a ban on private ownership of semi-automatic rifles and a government-funded buyback of newly outlawed guns.
According to the ABC, New Zealanders can possess a military-style semi-automatic rifle if they are over 18 and have an additional special permit from police.
“I know there is understandable grief in New Zealand and anger, too. There are questions that need to be answered,” Ardern said. “Our gun laws will change.”
Following Ardern’s promise to tighten gun laws, New Zealanders have reportedly started stockpiling guns and supplies. According to multiple reports, gun shops have allegedly experienced a surge in sales since the attack on Friday.
Meanwhile, the owner of Gun City David Tipple has confirmed his store had previously sold four weapons to Tarrant but they were not the ones he used in the killings. Tipple said in a media conference on Monday he and his staff were “disgusted” by Friday’s shootings, but added he doesn’t feel responsible for the events that took place.
“I watched the video and saw the rifle… and it was not from any Gun City affiliated store,” he said.
However, Tipple said he was not able to verify whether the shotgun used was purchased from Gun City. He said Tarrant’s first purchase from the store was in November 2017, and his last was March 2018.