Psychiatrists ‘as sure as we can be’

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The two new court-appointed psychiatrists who’ve been examining confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik claim they’re both “as sure as we can be” that Breivik was not psychotic when he carried out his attacks on July 22. They don’t think he’s psychotic now, either.

Agnar Aspaas, one of the two court-appointed psychiatrists who's re-examined Anders Behring Breivik, claims Breivik was not psychotic when he carried out the attacks that killed 77 persons last summer. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/Views and News

Both psychiatrists, Agnar Aspaas and Terje Tørrissen, readily acknowledged that their conclusion is at odds with that of two other psychiatrists who earlier declared Breivik to be criminally insane. “We declare that we have arrived at a different conslusion,” Aspaas said on Tuesday after he and Tørrissen had submitted their report to the Oslo City Court. “The court will take both reports under consideration. It’s up to the court to make an evaluation.”

Neither Aspaas nor Tørrissen would offer much detail as to why their conclusion was so different from the earlier diagnosis delivered by psychiatrists Torgeir Husby and Synne Sørheim. If Aspaas and Tørrissen also had declared Breivik to be criminally insane, as Husby and Sørheim did, he would most likely avoid a jail term and be committed to a psychiatric institution instead. Now the court will have to rule on Breivik’s mental state and what kind of confinement he’ll face, likely towards the end of his 10-week trial that begins on Monday.

Advantage of time
Aspaas and Tørrissen suggested, though, that they had more information available than Husby and Sørheim had when they evaluated Breivik last autumn. That included access to far more court documents and witness testimony. They had the advantage, they noted, that more time had passed since Brevik carried out his attacks.

They said they also spoke with Breivik both individually and, later, together. They could form their own opinions of his mental state, and then discuss it together. “We began by forming our own impressions, then we formed a common conclusion,” Tørrissen told reporters at a press conference broadcast on live nationwide television in Norway after he and Aspaas had delivered their 310-page report to the city court. Both described Breivik’s cooperation with their work as “very good.”

In addition to the conversations with Breivik that began in February, they were able to observe Breivik intensely over a lengthy period, along with a team of medical experts. Some of the observations took place around the clock, also while Breivik was sleeping. Their report, they said, details how they worked, the results of various tests they conducted and what went into their “comprehensive evaluation” of the man whose attacks killed 77 persons.

Neither Aspaas nor Tørrissen wanted to discuss or comment on the earlier report and claimed they hadn’t read it until mid-March, after they’d already spent weeks evaluating Breivik. They didn’t want to be influenced by it, they said, and could honestly tell Breivik when he complained about it that they hadn’t read it. Breivik has objected to their insanity ruling and claims his attacks were motivated by political ideology.

‘Extensive work’
Aspaas and Tørrissen said they were no experts on ideology but claimed their report is based on omfattende arbeid (extensive work). “We speak for ourselves,” Aspaas said. “We’re talking about psychosis and we have found no signs of it.” He added later that Breivik “is not psychotic now, either.”

A court official told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the court is prepared to evaluate both reports and “make the best possible ruling.” Breivik will also be under close observation during his 10-week trial.

Harald Stabell, a well-known attorney in Norway who’s often commented on the case, said the new and conflicting report made for “a very interesting situation. It will be an exciting trial now.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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