Breivik to get new psychiatric assessment


A drawing of terror suspect Anders Behring Breivik during a hearing at the Oslo courthouse, on Nov. 14, 2011.


Arne Roar Lund

MALMO, Sweden — Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik is to undergo a new psychiatric assessment, an Oslo Court has ruled, meaning he may still face prison for the 77 people he killed in a bombing and shooting rampage in July.

Judge Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen announced the appointment of Agnar Aspaas and Terje Toerrissen, two prominent Norwegian psychiatrists, at a press conference in Oslo today.

"The court finds, after an overall assessment, that it is necessary for the judge to appoint two new experts to assess the accountability of the accused," she ruled in a written statement."The court thinks that the exceptional and extremely serious nature of the case dictates that the issue of his accountability should be investigated further."

She noted that psychiatrists at Ila Prison, where Mr Breivik is being held, had observed no signs of illness, making a second opinion necessary.

Mr Breivik, 32, has confessed to setting off a bomb that ripped through Oslo's government district on July 22, killing eight people, and then opening fire at the summer camp of the governing Labour Party's youth wing, killing another sixty-nine. But in a manifesto he released on the day of the attack, he argued that the killings were "necessary" to alert white Norwegians to the threat from Islam.

In late November, two forensic psychiatrists, Synne Sorheim and Torgeir Husby, concluded that Breivik had been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and so should be sent for compulsory psychiatric treatment, rather than prison.

Their conclusion was widely criticised by other psychiatrists who said that it was unlikely that a paranoid schizophrenic would be able to mount an operation as meticulously planned as Breivik’s attack.

Lawyers for victims of the attack last month called for a new psychiatric evaluation on the grounds that the psychiatrist monitoring Breivik in prison had reported no signs of schizophrenia.

“There is insufficient evidence that he is insane,” said Mette Larsen, one of the lawyers. “Its important for them to have a new assessment. They don’t need to have him convicted, but they need to have comfort that it is the right conclusion.”

Mrs Arntzen said that both teams of psychiatrists would be called to give their evidence to the trial in April.

"The court believes that it also has an intrinsic value to judge obtain a "second opinion" about the accused's sanity, regardless of whether the declaration will have a direct bearing on the outcome," she said.