Judge orders Pistorius to get psychiatric evaluation

Mental observation would ensure murder accused Oscar Pistorius gets a fair trial, Judge Thokozile Masipa said in the high court in Pretoria on Wednesday.

She ordered that he be sent for psychiatric evaluation after forensic psychiatrist Dr Merryll Vorster testified that he had general anxiety disorder. This prompted the state to lodge an application to refer him for observation. “This is not about anyone’s convenience but rather about justice being served,” Masipa said granting the state’s application. 

“I am satisfied that a case has been made out for the application, or the relief as sought by the state, and I shall grant that order.” 

Masipa said she was aware that the referral would cause more delays, but she believed it was in the interest of justice. She said the state should consider the possibility of admitting him as an out-patient. 

“The aim of referral is not to punish the accused twice.” 

Going over her order on Wednesday, Masipa said it was strange that the defence opposed the state’s application. Vorster’s evidence had brought to the court’s attention Pistorius’s criminal capacity when he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. 

Pistorius had a long history of general anxiety disorder that appeared to be increasing with time, Vorster said. Masipa said the court would not be able to determine Pistorius’s mental capacity “without the guidance of expert psychiatrists”. 

“There is also a possibility that there may be diminished criminal responsibility,” she said. “This court … is ill-equipped to deal with the issues raised in Dr Vorster’s evidence in this case … Dr Vorster’s report cannot replace a proper inquiry.” 

‘Free trial’
Masipa said Vorster only had two interviews with Pistorius, on May 2 and May 7, and she might have had little time to compile a report. “A proper inquiry … would ensure that the accused gets a fair trial,” she said. 

Pistorius is charged with murdering Steenkamp. He shot her dead through the locked door of his toilet in his Pretoria home on February 14 last year. He has denied guilt, saying he thought she was an intruder about to open the door and attack him. 


The state contends he shot her during an argument. Masipa said there had been allegations during the trial that Pistorius was not criminally responsible at the time of the shooting and that could not be ignored. 

“The allegations have been properly substantiated by the evidence of Dr Vorster,” she said. Vorster said Pistorius believed he heard an intruder before he shot Steenkamp, and had escalating levels of anxiety. She said his physical vulnerability made him more anxious and more likely to have a fight response rather than a flight response. 

This was because his disability made it difficult for him to flee from a threat. The specific order would be handed down next Tuesday. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said the state and defence would help the court prepare the order. Barry Roux, SC, for Pistorius said the defence would seek to have both psychiatrists and psychologists observe Pistorius. Pistorius, dressed in a black suit, stood emotionless as Masipa spoke.

Shortly before the order was handed down, Roux spoke to Pistorius. After court he hugged members of his family. Steenkamp’s mother June, her cousin, and the Myers family were in court on Wednesday. Pistorius is also charged with three contraventions of the Firearms Control Act – one of illegal possession of ammunition and two of discharging a firearm in public. He has pleaded not guilty to these charges as well. – Sapa

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

ConCourt settles the law on the public protector and interim...

The Constitutional Court said it welcomed robust debate but criticised the populist rhetoric in the battle between Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan

Where is the deputy president?

David Mabuza is hard at work — it’s just not taking place in the public eye. The rumblings and discussion in the ANC are about factions in the ruling party, succession and ousting him
Advertising

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday