Another big break looms as Oscar is sent for psychiatric evaluation

By Kirstin Buick
14 May 2014

Oscar Pistorius will be sent for mental observation, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled on Wednesday.

Oscar Pistorius will be sent for mental observation fro 30 days, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled on Wednesday.

"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." This comes after forensic psychiatrist Merryll Vorster said Pistorius suffered from general anxiety disorder, which was listed as a mental illness. "It would be unwise for court to make a diagnosis without help of experts," the judge said. "This court as a lay court is ill-equipped to deal with the issue raised in Dr Vorster's evidence at this stage."

'This is not about anyone's convenience but rather about whether justice has been served'

"Her report, however inclusive it may be, cannot replace a proper inquiry made in terms of the act. It appears she may have had very little time to compile her report. A proper inquiry will ensure that the accused gets a fair trial."

Masipa said she was aware this would cause more delays, but said it was not about convenience but whether justice was served.

She said the idea was not to punish Pistorius and the possibility of him being an out-patient should be investigated.

Making the application on Tuesday prosecutor Gerrie Nel said the timing of the evidence given by forensic psychiatrist Dr Merryll Vorster was significant. Vorster evaluated Pistorius on May 2 and 7.

"My lady, the consultation happened after the evidence of the accused. There must be a reason why that consultation would take place at that time," Nel said.

Barry Roux SC, for Pistorius, opposed the application. "Apart from the absence of merit it is a premature application," he said. "For the moment we must take emotions out of it." Nel said it was necessary to send Pistorius for evaluation in case the disorder might have affected his behaviour on February 14 last year, when she shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

"The accused was not the most impressive witness. Isn't that then the reason why a psychiatrist was consulted?" Nel asked, addressing Masipa.

Court will resume again on Tuesday next week to decide on the terms.

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. Pistorius 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.

He 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.

- Kirstin Buick/ Sapa

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