Mental health reports have been ordered to explore whether the man accused of the Christchurch mosque attacks is mentally fit to enter pleas.

The 28-year-old Australian national appeared via audio-visual link from custody in the High Court at Christchurch this morning.

Around 50 family members of the mosque attack victims filed into the courtroom to watch the proceedings.

'Coward': Victim's family lashes out at accused Christchurch gunman


There were also more than two dozen reporters from New Zealand and around the world, along with eight police officers and several security staff.

Gunman stays silent in court

The alleged gunman appeared on the audio-visual link booth from prison unshaved, in a grey sweatshirt, with his hands handcuffed in front of him.

He was attentive throughout proceedings, at times leaning forward to better hear what was being said.

He looked around the screen with various camera angles that showed the lawyers, judge, and some of the media. The families and survivors in the public gallery were not visible to him.

When Justice Mander asked if he could hear what was being said, he nodded.

The accused, whose address has been listed on charging documents as Andersons Bay in Dunedin, remain impassive throughout and did not speak.

At the conclusion of the hearing, he gave a small nod before the registrar ended the video link transmission.

None of the family members said anything from the public gallery.


Afterwards, they were given a briefing to ensure they understood the legal process and language used in court.

Justice Mander also reminded journalists present today that given legal proceedings are now underway, media need to be aware of the sub judice rule in any reports.

Police yesterday confirmed that the alleged shooter now faces 50 murder charges and 39 attempted murder charges.

Police have said other charges are still under consideration.

Crown prosecutor Barnaby Hawes confirmed the Crown has filed the charges.

Mental health reports ordered

The defence team today asked for mental health expert to assess the accused under section 38 of the Mental Health Act to determine whether the defendant is mentally fit or impaired and whether he is mentally able to enter pleas to the charges.

Justice Cameron Mander ordered two health assessors' reports, which defence lawyer Shane Tait said could take two to three months to complete.

The judge stressed that the move was "normal procedure" and an "entirely ordinary and regular step" to be taken at this stage of the judicial process.

Nothing should be read into the ordering of the reports, he added.

The Crown also sought an interim suppression order for the victims relating to the 39 attempted murder charges.

Justice Mander granted the order – which was not opposed by the accused's new defence lawyers Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson – on the grounds of undue hardship.

Charge documents lodged with the court today only refer to the 39 attempted murder victims by alphabetical-numerical numbers, starting with 'W001' and ending with 'W039'.

The accused was remanded in custody to reappear in court on June 14.

Accused gunman a 'coward': victim's son

Outside court, Yama Nabi whose father was Haji Daoud Nabi was killed at Al Noor Mosque said it was important he was at court today.

He described the alleged gunman as a "coward".

Nabi said it would be a long process but he wanted justice.

Other victims' families declined to comment as they left the courthouse, saying they had been advised to not speak about the case to media.

Nabi had attempted to attend the accused's first court appearance but was prevented from entering the courtroom.

"[I] just want to see what he has to say, what sort of feeling he's got [his] emotion, to see what his reaction is, good or bad and the truth will come out of him," Yama Nabi told RNZ before this morning's court hearing.

"They didn't harm him, no one harmed him."

Haji Daoud Nabi was one of the 50 people killed in the March 15 terror attack.
Haji Daoud Nabi was one of the 50 people killed in the March 15 terror attack.

Farid Ahmed, who lost his wife in the attack, has famously already forgiven the alleged mass murderer.

"I have forgiven him and I am sure if my wife was alive she would have done the same thing," he previously told the Herald.

"I hold no grudge."

But Nabi told RNZ he was not willing to do that at this stage.

"How can you forgive someone if your father's not calling you, talking to you on the phone, putting a smile on your face from morning to night?

"How can you forgive someone for doing that? I mean in the end it's in the hands of Allah almighty god."

Rally in accused gunman's hometown

Meanwhile the Australian hometown of the accused gunman has rallied behind his family as residents gathered to mourn the massacre victims.

Hundreds of locals packed Grafton's Christ Church Cathedral on Monday night, many driven to tears by grief and guilt, Daily Mail Australia reported.

Grafton's Anglican dean Gregory Jenks said they had gathered to show solidarity and compassion for the people of Christchurch, especially the Muslim community.

"Also for the [accused name's] family, we want them to feel loved and cared for and respected by their neighbours."