Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
20 May 2014
6:15 am

Oscar will most likely be ‘in-patient’

Ilse de Lange

The State prosecutor in the murder trial of Paralympian Oscar Pistorius would most likely already have insisted on Pistorius undergoing psychiatric observation 24 hours per day, a psychology lecturer has said.

FILE PICTURE: A supporter of paralympian Oscar Pistorius gives him a teddy bear as he leaves the high court in Pretoria on Tuesday, 13 May 2014.Pistorius is charged with murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Picture: Daniel Born/The Times/ Pool

Pistorius will be back in court today for Judge Thokozile Masipa to make an order setting out the exact terms under which his observation will take place.

The judge said last week the court needed the guidance of a panel of experts to deal with the evidence of Dr Merryll Vorster, a forensic psychiatrist called by the defence.

Dr Vorster said Pistorius suffered from generalised anxiety disorder which, coupled with his physical vulnerability, may have affected his ability to act in accordance with his realisation of the wrongfulness of his conduct when he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on February 14 last year.

Pistorius said he thought Steenkamp was an intruder when he shot her, but the State contends he deliberately shot her behind a locked toilet door after a heated argument.

Pistorius’s senior advocate Barry Roux last week mentioned the possibility of Pistorius being evaluated as an out-patient.

However, University of KwaZulu-Natal lecturer Dr Jackie de Wet, who specialises in offender and criminal behaviour profiling, said mental observation usually takes place in a controlled environment with the accused admitted as an in-patient at a psychiatric hospital for 30 days.

This was to ensure the observation was impartial and that the patient’s behaviour could not be influenced by outside factors. “You have to observe him every day in group sessions and individual interviews, but his free time must also be observed.

“How he interacts with other people, which even includes the orderlies and cooks. He will also have to undergo a whole battery of tests.

“His psychologist mentioned that he suffered from depression. With that comes a range of issues. That’s another reason why he would most likely be an in-patient.

“The whole idea behind the 30-day evaluation is to get an unblemished data set. If you only see him for five or six hours per day you don’t see how he acts the rest of the time. When he’s away for some hours it might influence him,” De Wet said.

He said Pistorius would be observed by a panel of experts who would probably consist of a psychiatrist nominated by the State, an in-house psychiatrist and a psychiatrist or psychologist nominated by the defence.