Breaking News: Court Rules On Pistorius Psychiatric Evaluation

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A South African court has finally ruled that South African Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius is to undergo evaluation for mental illness.

Delivering the order some few minutes ago, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that such an evaluation would ensure that Mr Pistorius would get a fair trial.

According to Judge Masipa, the court would hand down the details of the assessment next Tuesday, adding it would be “preferable” for Mr Pistorius to undergo the evaluation as an outpatient.

The double amputee is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.

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* Pistorius inside the court room

The defence claims Mr Pistorius suffers from “general anxiety disorder”.

Defence psychiatrist Meryll Vorster Tuesday told the court that Mr Pistorius’s anxiety would have given him a heightened fear of crime.

Mr Pistorius’s lawyers have sought to portray the world-famous athlete as almost manically obsessed with safety after a difficult childhood and in the face of high crime levels in South Africa.

A BBC correspondent says that Mr Pistorius could be evaluated for a minimum of 30 days at a psychiatric faculty as a result of the evaluation order.

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* Pistorius’ uncle welcoming the judge’s order

Legal experts say that the case may well hinge on the judge’s understanding of the athlete’s state of mind when he pulled the trigger.

They says the prosecution is keen to show that the defence keeps changing its reasons why Mr Pistorius fired his gun – from putative self-defence, to accidental shooting, and now to something linked to his anxiety disorder.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, so the athlete’s fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.

Mr Pistorius’s uncle, Arnold, welcomed the Judge’s “thorough” ruling and says it gives family “confidence” in the justice system.

He said that he was fully confident of the judge’s commitment to a fair trial.

It could be recalled that the star sprinter claims he mistakenly shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through a locked toilet door believing she was an intruder in his upmarket Pretoria home.

If found guilty of murder, Mr Pistorius could face life imprisonment. If he is acquitted of that charge, the court will consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could receive about 15 years in prison.

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