Oscar Pistorius to undergo psychiatric evaluation

PRETORIA – Oscar Pistorius will be sent for psychiatric evaluation for other experts to determine the state of a mental disorder that could have influenced his behaviour the night he killed Reeva Steenkamp.

But it will only be known on Tuesday if Pistorius will be in an outpatient programme or spend weeks inside a facility.

On Tuesday, the State applied to have Pistorius referred for mental observation after a defence witness diagnosed the athlete with a general anxiety disorder (GAD).

Judge Thokozile Masipa on Wednesday began her ruling with a summary of the State and defence’s arguments for and against the application. She said the application was “strangely” opposed by the accused and his defence team.

She said that according to the Criminal Procedure Act, in the case of an allegation of mental defect or illness, the accused must be sent for a referral. This was especially necessary if the mental illness had affected the judgment of the accused at the time of the crime.

Masipa said Nel had argued that psychiatrist professor Merryll Vorster’s testimony was a calculated attempt to make up for Pistorius’ own weak testimony.

Masipa said 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 Vorster,” Masipa said.

She said Vorster’s comprehensive report on Pistorius’s developmental history dealt with his past mental history and had provided a diagnosis of GAD.

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

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

She quoted Vorster as saying that if exposed to a threat, Pistorius was more likely to engage in a fight response than a flight response.

Vorster had said that Pistorius’s reaction on the night of the shooting should be considered in relation to his disorder and physical disability.

Masipa interpreted Vorster’s statements as indicating that Pistorius’ ability actions on Valentine’s Day 2013 may have been affected by his GAD.

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

She said the court was a lay court and was ill-equipped to properly determine if Vorster’s findings were accurate, but that no one had contradicted that psychiatrist’s report.

Masipa noted, however, that Vorster had only two interviews with the accused.

She addressed the defence’s argument that the case law submitted were incidents where referrals were obviously needed, differing from Pistorius’s trial. Masipa said that the legal test for referrals remained the same.

“I am satisfied that a case has been made out for the application . . . And I shall grant that order,” Masipa, who said the details would only be announced on Tuesday next week, stated.

She said the aim of a referral was not to punish the accused twice and noted that it would be preferable if he could be an outpatient.

Roux said that there would be a negotiation with the State for an outpatient programme for Pistorius during his observation.

– IOL.

Our Partners:   NewsDay   The Independent   TheStandard  MyClassifieds