Confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik was declared criminally insane (straffesrettslig utilregnelig) on Tuesday by the two psychiatrists appointed by the court to evaluate his mental health. The psychiatrists’ conclusion means Breivik will now likely be committed to a psychiatric institution for the rest of his life, but his trial in April will go forward as planned.
The psychiatrists found Breivik to be psychotic, both at the time he carried out his attacks on July 22 and while under their observation. According to some of their characterizations released Tuesday by prosecutors, Breivik “finds himself in his own delusional universe” where his “thoughts and acts” are driven by his delusions.
They believe he already had been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia that escalated in the months leading up to the attacks that left 77 persons dead. He called the murders he carried out “executions,” committed “out of love for his people.”
His “grandiose and bizarre delusions” led him to describe himself to the court-appointed psychiatrists as “the most perfect knight since World War II.” They said he sees himself as “the future regent of Norway.”
The psychiatrists’ shared conclusion of insanity will not itself decide Breivik’s fate, but rather provides crucial professional advice to the court. Their diagnosis of psychosis, now subject to review by a forensic medical commission, creates a foundation for the decision the court will make on Breivik’s fate, with legal experts saying it’s seldom that such a court-ordered report is disregarded. His trial is still due to start April 16, because he still must be declared guilty or not guilty of the murders and destruction for which he is charged and to which he has confessed.
Prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh told reporters on Tuesday that when a person is declared insane, or psychotic, he or she cannot be sentenced to a prison term in Norway, nor to forvaring (indefinite preventive custody). Rather, if found guilty of the crimes for which he or she is charged, the defendant can be sentenced to “compulsory mental health care” and ordered to stay in a psychiatric institution, “to protect society from someone viewed as insane and dangerous.”
‘Cooperative’ and eager to talk
There was never much concern that Breivik would ever be set free. If he’d been declared criminally responsible for his attacks, he would have faced 21 years in prison and the preventive custody that also could last for the rest of his life. By being declared psychotic, he will likely be formally absolved of criminal penalty but committed to a psychiatric institution, also likely for the rest of his life.
When delivering their 243-page report on Breivik’s mental state, court -appointed psychiatrist Torgeir Husby told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he and colleague Synne Sørheim had no doubts regarding their evaluation. They have had 13 conversations totaling 36 hours with Breivik since his arrest on July 22, when he immediately confessed to bombing Norway’s government headquarters in Oslo and carrying out a massacre on the island of Utøya.
Husby said their work was “very comprehensive and difficult” but he added that Breivik was “very cooperative and interested in talking.” Husby said that in their last conversation last week, Breivik told him that he’d miss their talks.
The report Husby and Sørheim delivered set records itself, for its length and detail. Pål Grøndahl, a court psychologist himself and researcher at the University of Oslo, told NRK that it was “probably the longest court-ordered psychiatric report ever prepared in Norway’s history.”
Focus on Breivik’s childhood and youth
Husby explained its length by saying he and Sørheim “wanted to understand as well as we could” how Breivik thought and observed the world around him. The report concentrated on Breivik’s childhood, when conditions in the home of his divorced mother prompted concern from Norway’s child protective services at the time. On Monday, NRK reported that Breivik was believed to have been the victim of “assaults of a sexual character” when he was four years old. He was never removed from his mother’s care, however, and the home he shared with her and an older half-sister was described as clean and orderly.
With the eyes of the world on Oslo, given international interest in the July 22 attacks, the court system has wanted to make sure Breivik is subject to the most fair and humane legal process as possible. His trial is set to last 10 weeks.
Breivik’s defense attorney Geir Lippestad, currently in California gathering evidence believed tied to Breivik’ childhood, has long referred to Breivik’s “altered state of reality” and even told reporters shortly after his arrest that he thought Breivik was “insane.”
Breivik has never expressed any regret for his actions, expressing rather that he felt his attacks were necessary to launch a war against those who are allowing the creation of multi-cultural societies in Europe. In Norway, his main target was the Labour Party, which traditionally has maintained an open view on immigration and currently leads the country’s left-center coalition government. Lippestad said earlier this week that the only concern Breivik seemed to have about the psychiatrists’ report was that it would subject him to “character assassination.”
Breivik also has repeatedly referred to himself as the commander of a Norwegian resistance movement against the Islamification of Norway and Europe. He also has referred himself as Knight Chief Justice in the Knights Templar Europe and the Knights Templar Norway, but police believe he acted alone.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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