Oscar’s outpatient status ‘will speed up process’

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Copy of Copy of PN Oscar29237 [1]

REUTERS

Oscar Pistorius, left, chats to his brother, Carl, at the North Gauteng High Court. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Pretoria - That Oscar Pistorius will be an outpatient when he reports to the Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital on Monday will significantly speed up the process of his being under observation. This is according to a senior prosecutions official, who does not want to be identified, but who is an expert regarding referrals by the courts.

A shortage of beds at state psychiatric institutions often causes long delays before an accused is admitted and evaluated.

In terms of the ruling by Judge Thokozile Masipa, sitting in the North Gauteng High Court, Pistorius must report to Weskoppies at 9am from Monday and remain there until 4pm, or until he is excused.

The judge said he had to attend the facility every weekday for a period not exceeding 30 days.

The prosecutions expert said while accused weren’t normally referred for observation as an outpatient, this could happen in appropriate cases as the Criminal Procedure Act made provision for this.

“Accused are normally sent for observation for two reasons - to ascertain whether they can stand their trial and whether they were criminally responsible for their actions at the time of committing the offence.

“In this case it is not in question (whether) Pistorius (can) stand his trial and he does not need to be admitted full-time. He does not need to be observed all the time.”

It was up to the superintendent of the hospital and the panel to agree how they would go about the observation.

But top senior criminal advocate Johann Engelbrecht SC said that in his career of more than 40 years, he had not had a client who had been referred for observation but not admitted full-time. “I have always had a client being observed on a 24-hour basis by a psychiatric nurse.”

Engelbrecht said even his client Suzanne Visser, better known as Advocate Barbie, had to be admitted to Weskoppies full-time for 30 days when she was referred by the court.

While he frowned upon Pistorius’s being observed as an outpatient, he did not say whether he thought the Paralympian was being given preferential treatment.

Judge Masipa ruled that Pistorius be evaluated by a panel of four experts - three psychiatrists and a clinical psychologist. The latter is the well-known Professor Jonathan Scholtz, of Weskoppies, who also evaluated Visser during her trial.

Psychiatrist Professor HW Pretorius, who will represent the court on the panel, is retired and not in the service of the State.

Engelbrecht said Weskoppies was an excellent facility with top-class experts. “Pistorius will be in good hands,” he said.

The experts will compile a report on Pistorius’s frame of mind at the time he shot Reeva Steenkamp. This will include findings on whether he has general anxiety disorder, as diagnosed by psychiatrist Dr Merryl Vorster.

zelda.venter@inl.co.za

Pretoria News


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