Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
13 Jun 2016
12:19 pm

Pistorius is severely depressed, psychiatrist warns

Ilse de Lange

Court hears medical evidence on convicted athlete's condition.

FILE PICTURE: Oscar Pistorius during his sentencing hearing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on October 21, 2014. Picture: AFP

Oscar Pistorius was severely depressed, anxious and paranoid – and  he urgently needed to be hospitalised, a psychologist has told the High Court in Pretoria.

Prof Jonathan Scholtz, a psychology lecturer at the University of Pretoria who is also attached to Weskoppies Hospital, told the court Pistorius’ condition has worsened since he was first assessed in 2014.

The expert said his symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety have increased considerably, as did his social phobia.

He blamed himself for the death of his former girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, who died after he shot her four times through a locked toilet door at his house in the east of Pretoria on Valentine’s day 2014.

Prof Scholtz testified that Pistorius was not in a fit state to testify in mitigation of sentence. “If he was my patient, he would already have been in hospital,” he said.

He said further imprisonment would have an extremely negative effect on Pistorius’ psychological state.

Pistorius developed an infection in his stumps in prison, where he had to stand on his stumps on the shower floor for the first five months.

He was confined to the hospital section of the prison because of his vulnerability, where he spent about 17 hours per day in his cell. His incarceration thus basically amounted to solitary confinement, which would have a negative effect on any inmate, Scholz argued.

Scholtz testified that Pistorius felt “like an animal in a cage” because warders would bring others to look at him, even at night.

Pistorius is facing a minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment. Fresh sentencing proceedings commenced before Judge Thokozile Masipa today after the Supreme Court of Appeal in December last year overturned his culpable homicide conviction and found him guilty of murder.

The SCA referred the case back to Judge Masipa, but made it clear that the months Pistorius already spent in prison should be taken into account.

The Constitutional Court in March refused Pistorius leave to appeal against his murder conviction.

Pistorius, who was released under house arrest in October last year, was two months later released on bail subject to electronic monitoring, while awaiting his new sentence.

Prof Scholtz testified that Pistorius had severe feelings of self-loathing and had to be prompted into any form of optimism about the future. He had low levels of energy, was lethargic and felt disinvested in his future, saying he left everything is in God’s hands.