South Africa

Oscar Pistorius sent to Weskoppies for mental health observation

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Last week the presiding judge in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial agreed to grant the state’s request for an extensive mental health evaluation of the accused, further details of which were revealed in court today.

This application from the prosecution came as a result of evidence from South African psychiatrist Dr Meryl Vorster, who was called by the defence to provide an assessment of Pistorius’ mental health. The expert witness believes Pistorius suffers from an anxiety disorder that may have influenced his actions on the night he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said in her ruling on Wednesday,“The question is whether there was a reasonable possibility that…observation would reveal that at the time the crime was committed the accused suffered from a mental disorder which could have resulted in his not being criminally responsible for this act”.

She hinted that Pistorius had already been or would be punished when she added, “The aim of referral is not to punish the accused twice, so if there is a possibility of making sure that he’s an out-patient, I think that would be preferable.”

In today’s court session, lasting barely ten minutes, she confirmed that Pistorius would be placed under mental observation as an outpatient at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria for a period of 30 days, as of next week. The trial will now be adjourned to allow for this assessment and will resume on Monday 30 June.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel is said to have asked for the evaluation in a bid to quash any doubts that may lead to acquittal on mental health grounds, making this development highly influential to the outcome of the murder trial.

If the diagnosis shows that Pistorius was in fact incapacitated due to the nature of his disorder, he stands to be acquitted, however, if the observation does not determine any major mental health issues, that factor is eliminated and the trial will continue where it left off last week.

In its fight to prove the Olympian’s innocence, the defence has presented a man in the 10th week of a heart-wrenching trial, who is scarred and traumatised, even to the point of retching and weeping. These issues will certainly be explored by the team of professionals at Weskoppies.

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