The number of people allowed to attend the sentencing of the Christchurch mosque gunman has been almost halved due to the new outbreak of Covid-19.
Further details of the plans for the sentencing of the March 15 mosque gunman have been released today ahead of the hearing in Christchurch next week.
Details include how many people will read victim impact statements, language support and special facilities at the court precinct to accommodate the families attending.
The sentencing of convicted killer, Australian national Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29, is scheduled to begin on August 24 and take three days or more.
It will be held in the High Court at Christchurch before Justice Cameron Mander.
The Court will begin sitting at 10am each day and adjourn at 5pm.
On Monday the sentencing will begin with the Crown prosecutor reading the summary of facts in open court for the first time.
Then victims who wish to read victim impact statements will take turns being heard.
Presently 66 victims have advised they wish their statement to be read in court.
The statements will either be read in person, pre-recorded or read by a representative of the victim.
"It is anticipated this will be a lengthy process. It will likely occupy a number of days," said Justice Mander in a minute released today.
"At the completion of the reading of the victim impact statements, counsel for
the Crown will be invited to make submissions.
"The offender, who has elected to represent himself at sentencing, will then have the opportunity to present his submissions.
"He may choose to do so himself or have the submissions presented by standby counsel.
"Finally, the Court will deliver its sentencing decision and impose sentence."
The unprecedented sentencing will be highly emotive, particularly due to delays and the global Covid-19 pandemic situation.
Up to 400 victims, their families and support people, were expected to attend the sentencing.
But Justice Mander said the law courts could now only accommodate about 230 visitors.
A total of 53 people are already in managed isolation at New Zealand's border facilities, having arrived from across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Australia and other countries, so they can attend the sentencing in person.
"The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that appropriate technology will be put in place to allow those who are currently based overseas and unable to travel to view the sentencing hearing and participate remotely," said Justice Mander.
"This option will also be available on a more limited basis for victims in New Zealand whose personal circumstances make it too difficult for them to attend the sentencing in person or who are now unable to attend because of the Covid-19 restrictions on the Court's seating capacity."
Entrance to the court will be limited next week.
Justice Mander acknowledged the sentencing would be "a difficult experience for victims and their families" - whether they are attending the hearing in person or viewing the hearing remotely.
For those attending in person, facilities will be made available for their comfort including a large breakout area, prayer rooms, and a whānau room.
St John's Ambulance staff will also be on site.
Justice Mander said in addition, the Ministry of Justice was working with the Canterbury District Health Board to manage any referrals to mental health services that are required throughout the hearing.
"Victims and their support people who are accessing the livestream at home will be encouraged to have support with them, or access to support, while they watch the
hearing," said Justice Mander today.
"Comprehensive language support will be in place for victims attending the hearing in person or watching the hearing remotely.
"This includes simultaneous audio translation of eight languages.
"Interpretation services will also be available for those victims who wish to read their victim impact statement in their own language."
A large number of media are expected to attend the hearing.
As has been the case for all pre-trial hearings and the plea hearing, a limited number of media will be accommodated in the main courtroom.
An overflow courtroom and working space have also been set aside where media will be able to view the hearing.
"In order to safely manage the numbers expected to attend, a system of registration has been put in place for victims and their families wishing to attend the
sentencing hearing," said Justice Mander.
"The number of visitors to the Law Courts will be limited at any one time to approximately 230 people.
"This number is based on the advice this Court has received about the number of people who can be safely accommodated in the main Courtroom and the seven overflow courtrooms which have been set aside or viewing the sentencing while maintaining the required physical distancing to the greatest extent practical.
"Those in whānau groups are not required to be distanced from one another."
Justice Mander said that access to the main Courtroom will be reserved for victims, their families and their support people.
"The number of victims who can be safely accommodated in this courtroom with
appropriate physical distancing at any one time is 35," he confirmed.
"Victims who have chosen to present victim impact statements to the Court in person will still be able to do so.
"Access to the seven overflow courtrooms will also be restricted to victims and their families and support people.
"Special consideration will be given to those who have travelled from overseas and who have undergone quarantine requirements in order to attend the sentencing."