CONCERNS that Dros rape accused Nicholas Ninow was using mental instability to evade standing trial for his alleged crime were unfounded, an expert said yesterday.
Dr Llewelyn Curlewis of the University of Pretoria’s department of procedural law said the uproar over Ninow being referred for evaluation had numerous implications, but none of which meant he would not account for his actions.
Curlewis said there were certain considerations to take into account, especially with regards to criminal law and the mental capacity of accused persons.
He said there were three applications with regards to mental illness and the criminal legislation.
Section 77 of the Criminal Procedure Act dealt with the accused person’s capacity to understand court proceedings. The evaluation panel elected by the court would have to indicate to the court if the accused were able to understand or follow proceedings.
Section 78 focused more on mental illness or defects at the time of the offence. Lastly, Section 79 refers to when alleged perpetrators were to be sent for the 30-day evaluation.
It sets out the panel and the report they are to compile on the court’s behalf.
Curlewis said that after submission of the report, it was at the court’s discretion to decide whether they would follow the advice of the report compiled by the medical superintendent or the superintendent’s chosen psychiatrist.
Should the report indicate that the accused was mentally unfit in either case, he would then be detained in a state mental facility for life.
“If after some time the person recovers, then he will then stand trial when he or she is released from the mental facility.
"So it’s not like he will evade standing trial. People don’t have to worry that he might possibly get away with the alleged crime scot-free.
"Experts are going to evaluate him as they are the only ones who can declare him mentally fit or unfit.”
Ninow’s battling mental illness and his referral to Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital were the focus of his third appearance in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
Ninow’s legal representative Riaan du Plessis told the court that although a panel of two psychiatrists or psychologists would normally be tasked as a panel to evaluate an accused, they wanted to request a third doctor to be added. Du Plessis said the reasoning behind the request was due to the seriousness of the case against his client and its complexity.
He said that Ninow, now 21, had been battling with substance abuse since he was 14.
He added that to make matters even more complex, Ninow had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as of 2013, with incidents of self-harm and suicide attempts due to his severe depression.
“The application for an additional psychiatrist is taking into consideration that it is necessary for there to be additional evaluation to delve deeper into the psyche of the accused person.”
The request by Du Plessis came after the State indicated that Ninow be referred to Weskoppies for evaluation.
State prosecutor Sanet Jacobson said that although there were no beds available for Ninow at Weskoppies, they had been informed one would be provided by November 28.
If it became available before then, Ninow’s representatives would be duly notified.
However, Jacobson insisted that there was no need for an additional psychiatrist to be appointed as that would unnecessarily delay proceedings.
She noted that Ninow would start his evaluation during December.
Despite the unhappiness in the gallery, the magistrate granted the request and postponed the matter to November 28 for allocation and referral to Weskoppies.
For now, Ninow remains in custody at Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre.