The Norwegian gunman charged for the 77 deaths in the twin terror attacks in July has been found legally insane by two forensic experts, much to the surprise of legal analysts.
Many had concluded prior to today’s report that Anders Behring Breivik would not be deemed psychotic, partly because of his many years spent planning the bomb blast on the government’s buildings and subsequent shooting spree at a summer Labour party youth camp.
The 243-page report concluded after 13 interviews with Mr. Breivik that he was psychotic at the time of the offense and had suffered from paranoid schizophrenia for a “long period” of time.
Svein Holden, a state prosecutor, told a news conference that Breivik suffered from “grandiose delusions” in which he believed he was chosen to decide who would live or die and that he committed his “executions” on July 22 “out of love for his people.”
“He characterizes himself as the most perfect knight after the Second World War and his organization Knight Templar will take over power in Europe,” said Mr. Holden.
Holden underlined that Norway’s Forensic Board of Medicine had still not concluded on Breivik’s sanity, which could in theory give rise to further comments and request for more forensic expert exams by the board. However, the prosecution would probably not oppose the decision if the board concurred with today’s report that Breivik was legally insane and hence unable to be criminally punishable.
Breivik will still face trial next April 16 for the July 22 attacks regardless of what the Forensic Board decides on his sanity. However, the prosecuting authority will only be able to petition for compulsory mental health care, and not for a prison sentence or preventive detention, if the board concurs that he was insane.
Norwegian law prohibits a person who was psychotic at the time of the offense from being held criminally punishable for his acts. There are currently 111 insane offenders being held under compulsory mental health care by the Health Southeast authorities, according to Engh.
Breivik could in theory be held in a mental institution for life if he is still deemed a threat to society. His length of stay will be evaluated every three years by a medical professional, without the need for holding a new trial each time.
Trond Henry Blattmann, leader for the July 22 support group, told Norwegian television TV2 that today’s conclusion would put an extra burden on victims’ families when Breivik’s forced institutionalisation would be up for review.
The prosecutors today said it would intervene if Breivik were to be moved from a high security to more open section of the hospital.
“I am comfortable either way,” said Inga Bejer Engh, another state prosecutor at the news conference. She said that committing Breivik to compulsory health care would also serve to protect society. The board is expected to conclude on Breivik’s mental health by end December.
The number of insanity pleas in Norway has historically been low. During 2005 and 2009, only about 20-25 percent were found to be insane or not capable to stand trial, according to Kristian Andenæs, a criminal law professor at the University in Oslo. In 2009, there were only 17 verdicts on coercive psychiatric care and 16 on detention in prison with a maximum period.