Four experts to examine Oscar

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oscar may 20

REUTERS

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius arrives at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday. Pistorius is on trial for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his suburban Pretoria Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Pretoria -Three psychiatrists and a clinical psychologist will determine if Oscar Pistorius had an appreciation of the wrongfulness of his behaviour when he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp.

Murder-accused Pistorius will spend up to 30 days at the Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital as an out-patient after a ruling last week that said psychiatric examination was required.

Last week, the court ruled in the prosecution's favour to have Pistorius evaluated at a facility to determine the veracity of the testimony of a defence psychiatrist.

Professor Merryl Vorster diagnosed Pistorius with a general anxiety disorder, prompting the prosecution to apply for Pistorius to undergo mental observation, based on section 78 of the Criminal Procedures Act.

This section dictates that should a mental problem influence an accused person’s judgment or morality during a crime, he or she should be psychiatrically examined.

This morning, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that Pistorius visit the hospital from 9am until 4pm each day for his examination, starting on 26 May, unless formally excused by the facility’s medical superintendent.

Naming the panel to examine Pistorius, she said that psychiatrists Dr Leon Fine would act for the defence and Professor Herman Pretorius would act for the court. Dr Jonathan Scholtz would be the psychologist on the panel. A third psychiatrist is to be appointed.

The panel would compile a report to determine if because of the athlete’s mental disorder, if he was criminally responsible for the shooting, and had an appreciation of the wrongfulness of the act.

This report would be submitted to the registrar of the High Court in Pretoria, as well as the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Forensic criminologist, Jackie de Wet explained to The Star some of the conditions that Pistorius would experience during his time at Weskoppies.

De Wet said that for the 30 days Pistorius will remain under observation he’ll be subject to a series of tests and analysis with the panel of psychologists. He said that one of the psychologists/psychiatrists is assigned by the defence to ensure a non-biased observation.

He said that, depending on Pistorius’s mental issue, he would be subject to differing tests, but most would include group and one-on-one therapy. Once the month-long examination is complete, the court will be presented with a report from the panel, which can then be examined by both the state and defence, if need be.

Last week, Judge Masipa said prosecutor Gerrie Nel had argued that Vorster's diagnosis and evidence was calculated attempt to make up for Pistorius' own weak testimony.

Masipa added in this case she disagreed with defence advocate Barry Roux's argument that there were no allegations of mental issues.

“The allegations have been properly substantiated by the evidence of Dr Vorster,” said Masipa.

She said Vorster's comprehensive report on Pistorius' developmental history dealt with his past mental history and had provided a diagnosis of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

Masipa said It was necessary to focus on extra information in her ruling, such as Pistorius' hypervigilance and inability to relax.

Masipa said Vorster believed that the anxiety disorder went hand in hand with his behaviour.

The judge said that a diagnosis needed to be determined by experts, rather than a lay-court.

She finished by stating the aim of a referral was not to punish the accused twice.

The court proceedings will continue on June 30 when the report on Pistorius’ mental health is completed.

Shain.germaner@inl.co.za

The Star


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