Public Pressure Court Orders New Psychiatric Review for Breivik

An Oslo court on Friday ordered a second expert opinion on the sanity of confessed killer Anders Behring Breivik. A first report concluded he was insane and incapable of guilt. But public pressure and criticism from experts has prompted the court to reevaluate. Many would like to see him land in prison rather than a mental ward.
Anders Behring Breivik (left): A court has ordered a second expert opinion on the confessed killer's sanity.

Anders Behring Breivik (left): A court has ordered a second expert opinion on the confessed killer's sanity.

Foto: REUTERS/ Aftenposten

The tone of the report alone would probably be enough to generate doubt among even non-experts. The man was "unemotionalized" and "not very dynamic." The person who had been questioned had a "slightly hypnotic stare" and he moved "only very little" during hours of conversation.

These are the notes taken by the two psychiatrists who recorded their impressions during 13 hours of questioning of Anders Behring Breivik . The man who killed 77 people "was not in a condition to recognize his emotions or to describe them," the psychiatrists wrote in an unpublished November expert opinion that has been obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE.

But how truly ill is Breivik, the man who set off a car bomb in Oslo and then proceeded to commit a massacre  at a political summer camp on the island of Utøya on July 22? Norway's psychiatrists, legal experts and politicians are deeply divided over the issue. In their expert opinion, psychiatrists Torgeir Husby and Signe Sørheim have diagnosed Breivik with paranoid schizophrenic psychosis.

However, their diagnosis is unlikely to be the last. At least one other report will follow after a decision announced by the court in Oslo on Friday that it will seek a second opinion. "It will be a difficult task," Agnar Aspas, one of the psychiatrists commissioned for the new expert opinion, told public TV station NRK. He said the experts "must be left in peace so that they can fulfil their duty."

'They Are Very Reluctant to Criticize Each Other'

The fact that a second report will be completed comes as a surprise. When the first report from forensic experts was handed over to the court at the end of November, it appeared that the belief Breivik was "incapable of contracting guilt" would remain uncontested until the next planned court date on April 16. A forensic medicine commission that is called to review the formal qualities of such expert opinions came to a unanimously positive conclusion about the psychiatrists' findings.

At the time, few experts protested the report's findings. Clinical psychologist Svenn Torgersen served as one of the lone critics. "I am not at all convinced by the report," the Oslo professor told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "I can't understand how of all things they could deliver such poor work in such an important case."

But there's a reason for the reserve shown by Norwegian legal psychiatrists. "The scene is very small, everyone knows everyone, people are friends with each other and they are very reluctant to criticize each other," explained Espen Sørbye, one of the country's best known intellectuals and a sharp-tongued commentator.

When public prosecutors as well as Breivik's defense attorney, Geir Lippestad, declared their agreement with the report, many observers no longer believed the situation could change.

Change, however, did come shortly before the holidays, and it appears to have been prompted by one of the country's most prominent personalities, Randi Rosenqvist. The 60-year-old is considered to be Norway's most influential forensic psychologist.

"As far as I'm concerned," she stated for the first time publicly in an interview with SPIEGEL , "this diagnosis doesn't follow from their arguments." Rosenqvist said her fellow psychiatrists had "failed to substantiate why other psychiatric disorders have been excluded" from consideration. She also called for greater caution -- particularly in diagnosing mental illness in cases involving politically motivated perpetrators.

Deviant, But not Ill

Rosenqvist omitted to mention something that was uncovered by the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten a short time later, namely that the prison director had given her the task of providing psychiatric care to the prominent prisoner. She met him three times, most recently on Dec. 19, and wrote extensive reports for the prison management, which were published on the website of the newspaper Verdens Gang on Friday.

Her diagnosis, which she shares with the other psychiatric doctors at the Ila prison, is almost diametrically opposed to the diagnosis of Sørheim and Husby: Breivik is not psychotic and not schizophrenic. Breivik's views are the result of his ideology, not a delusion, she concludes.

Rosenqvist describes in detail how she questioned Breivik. For example, she asked him what he thought about the forensic psychiatrist's report. "He regarded it mainly as humorous and said he could not even recognize himself in it," she wrote.

Rosenqvist asked the 32-year-old whether it was not immoral to kill so many people. "He answered the question by saying that it was immoral to do nothing against the threat posed against Norway and Europe," Rosenqvist writes in the previously unpublished notes.

In Breivik's view, the alleged threat is an imminent takeover by Islamists. He saw himself as a "Knight Templar" standing up to Muslim forces, and regards himself as a martyr. "He says that Norway is different after July 22 and he hopes the differences in society are now clearer," writes Rosenqvist. "He seems very detached from his actions. It seems as if he regarded them simply as something that was necessary." In her view, Breivik has a "clearly deviant personality." Deviant, perhaps -- but not ill.

In Rosenqvist's view, Breivik's hours-long discussions about his peculiar Knight Templar struggle show his exaggerated sense of self-importance. Husby and Sørheim, however, consider them to be bizarre delusions -- a key symptom of paranoid schizophrenia.

A Complement to Original Report

When she met with Breivik, Rosenqvist said he had not come across as insane. She says he told her: "I do not assume that I will ever be released." For her part, Judge Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen didn't appear on Friday to be retreating completely from the work of psychiatrists in the original report, saying that the new report would complement, rather than replace, the first one.

But public criticism and the opinions of the psychiatrists who are tending to Breivik in prison made it necessary to obtain the "best possible information for the court proceedings," Arntzen said.

The new expert psychiatrists commissioned by the court, Agnar Aspaas and Terje Tørrissen, will now have the opportunity to view comprehensive videos of Breivik's interrogations. However, it is unclear yet whether they will be able to speak directly to him as they have indicated they would like to do.

Breivik has already stated through his attorney that he does not wish to be questioned again. If that proves to be the case, psychiatrist Aspaas has said he would like to invoke a law that would enable Breivik to be forcefully transferred to a psychiatric institute. There he could be legally compelled to submit to interrogation. Aspaas said he planned to discuss the issue quickly with the court.

He also conceded in an interview with Norwegian news agency NTB that it is a step he is not keen to take. "It would make our task even harder," he said.

With additional reporting by Espen Eik
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