Mental health reports have been ordered to explore whether the alleged gunman 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 at the High Court in Christchurch this morning.

Around 50 family members of the terror attack victims filled into the courtroom to witness proceedings.

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


The accused, whose address has been listed on charging documents as Andersons Bay in Dunedin, did not speak during the short hearing.

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.

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

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

Victims' families in court today

Some families of those slain in the Christchurch mosque attacks were in court today to see the accused mass murderer.

The accused gunman faces 50 charges of murder and another 39 of attempted murder.


Several families planned to attend today's court hearing.

Yama Nabi wanted to be among them.

His father Haji Daoud Nabi was killed at the Masjid Al Noor Mosque during the March 15 attack that targeted two mosques.

Yama Nabi 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.

"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."

Auckland-based lawyers Jonathan Hudson and Shane Tait will represent the accused gunman.

The High Court received 12 applications from both New Zealand media and foreign organisations to photograph or make recordings of today's hearing.

But Justice Cameron Mander declined the applications.

In a minute issued to the media this week, he said factors in making his decision to refuse the requests were to preserve the integrity of the trial process and ensure a fair trial.

Journalists will, however, be permitted to remain in the courtroom and take notes, while newspapers and broadcasters are still able to use images of the accused which were taken at the earlier District Court hearing.

Those images will remain pixelated in accordance with an order by Judge Paul Kellar for the defendant's face to be blurred in any published images.

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."

Will the accused be in court in person on Friday?

No. The 28-year-old accused gunman was remanded in custody at his first appearance and has since been held at New Zealand's only maximum security prison in Paremoremo, Auckland.

Justice Mander ruled the accused will appear in court on Friday via audio-visual link from prison instead.

This is not an uncommon practice - people appear in courts all across New Zealand every day by way of a television screen.

What will happen? Will he enter a plea?

The accused will not be required to enter pleas to charges he currently faces.

There is also the possibility the Crown will seek to try him under the seldom-used Terrorism Suppression Act, which was introduced after the September 11 US terrorist attacks.

Section five of the legislation defines what a terrorist act is.

It states that it must be intended to cause death or destruction in one or more countries, be carried out for the purpose of advancing an ideological, political or religious cause, and intended to induce terror in a civilian population or compel a government to act.

Prosecutors would require the consent of the Solicitor-General to lay terror charges against the accused.

The purpose of the hearing on Friday will be to determine the alleged killer's legal representation status and to receive information from the Crown.

The Herald earlier reported the Australian man will represent himself in court.

Friday's hearing will also be largely procedural, with timetabling and future dates allocated by the judge.

Will the hearing be open to the public?

Justice Mander has ruled that because the hearing will be primarily procedural and administrative, much of it will take place with the court sitting in chambers.

This will mean members of the public will not be allowed into the courtroom during this time. Only the judge, lawyers, defendant, court security, police officers in charge of the case and media are permitted to stay.

Under the Criminal Procedure Act any New Zealand judge also has the power to clear their court of the public. This most often occurs in cases when a complainant gives evidence in trials of a sexual nature.

The judge has the ability to exclude people when it is necessary to avoid undue disruption to the proceedings.

Other reasons to close the court include; a real risk of prejudice to a fair trial, endangering the safety of any person, prejudicing the maintenance of the law - including the prevention, investigation and detection of offences - and when a suppression order is not sufficient to avoid that risk.

A judge can further clear their court if they believe it will avoid prejudicing the security or defence of New Zealand. This is the only type of order which also forces members of the media to leave.

Those allowed to remain in court regardless of any of order are a jury, prosecutor, the defendant, any lawyer engaged in the proceedings, an officer of the court, and the police officer in charge of the case.

The alleged gunman's first appearance in the District Court was closed to the public.