sport

Key ruling for Pistorius judge

The judge in Oscar Pistorius' murder trial is expected to announce this morning whether the athlete must undergo psychiatric tests that could see the case delayed for up to a month.

The prosecution applied to the judge on Tuesday for the Paralympic star to undergo the tests after a forensic psychiatrist told the court that Pistorius suffered from an anxiety disorder.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel argued the defendant's mental health should be examined more fully, which, if agreed by the judge - Thokozile Masipa - could see the trial delayed by 30 days.

It came after Dr Merryl Vorster told the court Pistorius has generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), and is a "distrusting and guarded" person who is "hyper-vigilant" about security.

But Mr Nel questioned the timing of the defence evidence.

Dr Vorster had only been consulted and called after Pistorius had given evidence to the court.

Mr Nel said: "Can it not be seen as a fallback position. The timing of the witness being called and the timing of the consultations is important."

If Pistorius were found to be suffering from a mental illness, he could be held not criminally responsible for his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp's death and found not guilty by reason of "mental illness or intellectual disability".

The law allows a person to undergo mental health observation for up to 30 days.

Mr Nel argued it was in the interests of justice that if there was any suggestion psychiatric factors had played a part in the killing, then the accused should be sent for observation and he applied for the referral.

'Premature'

But Pistorius' defence team said the application had "no merit" and was premature.

Earlier, in evidence to the court, Dr Vorster explained the nature of GAD.

She said: "It may impact on your capacity to live a normal lifestyle. By definition generalised anxiety disorder is a psychiatric disorder, so one can say it's a mental illness.

"But one has to look at the impact of that diagnosis on the individual's capacity to live and socialise."

When questioned by Mr Nel, the psychiatrist said: "He (Pistorius) was still able to function at a high-level and he still did socialise.

"He had distress because of his anxiety disorder but he was at that stage, still able to continue with his life."

Dr Vorster also felt Pistorius was more concerned about personal safety than other South Africans, by locking himself in his bedroom at night.

But Mr Nel questioned why the defendant, if he had been anxious about security, had not repaired a broken downstairs window that did not have bars on it.

Pistorius is accused of killing Ms Steenkamp in a premeditated attack at his home in Pretoria, South Africa, on Valentine's Day last year.

He denies the charge and claims he shot his partner after mistaking her for an intruder.

The trial continues.