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Pretoria - An emotional few weeks lie ahead for Oscar Pistorius as he reports to Weskoppies Hospital on Monday morning at 9am to start his mental evaluation as an outpatient in terms of North Gauteng High Court Judge Thokozile Masipa’s order.
While the athlete does not have to face the razor-sharp tongue of prosecutor Gerrie Nel until the end of next month, the “Blade Runner” will have to undergo a battery of tests and be subjected to an in-depth analysis by three of the country’s top psychiatrists and a clinical psychologist.
Pistorius will have to dig into his past and also relive the events of February 14 last year, when he killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steen-kamp, by shooting her through the closed toilet door of his Silverwoods home, east of Pretoria.
Pistorius’s fate is in the hands of these experts, who at the end of their evaluation will produce a report regarding his frame of mind before and during the shooting.
In terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, the evaluation may not exceed 30 days.
If Pistorius is found to be suffering from a mental condition resulting in his having diminished criminal responsibility for his actions when he shot Steenkamp, the court will have to decide how to deal with him. If his mental condition is so extreme that he cannot follow his trial, the court can refer him to a mental institution for a time deemed fit by the judge.
But experts say the report will have the most impact on Pistorius’s sentence should he be convicted. The report will then be used in mitigation of sentence.
Pistorius’s referral followed the evidence of his psychiatrist, Dr Merryl Vorster, who evaluated him. She also spoke to his friends and family and concluded he suffered from general anxiety disorder. This, coupled with psychological issues surrounding his physical disability, may have played a role in the killing, she said.
Vorster is highly regarded in her field of expertise and has testified in many court cases, but the panel of four experts may come to a different finding.
The State and the defence can dispute the findings, in which case they will have to call their own witnesses. The parties may also call members of the panel to the witness stand to clear-up issues arising from their report.
While many experts frown upon Pistorius not being admitted as a patient full time for 30 days, Judge Masipa said that in order not to punish him twice, it would be preferable if he could attend the facility as an outpatient.
A source close to the prosecution said referring Pistorius as an outpatient, would speed up the process significantly as there is a shortage of beds at the facility.