Man accused of shooting Giffords is 'unfit for trial'

The army reject accused of a shooting spree that left six people dead and a US congresswoman critically injured has been declared unfit to stand trial. Jared Loughner, 21, was ruled by US District Judge Larry Burns to be mentally incompetent to stand trial and has been sent to a secure unit for treatment and assessment.

He will spend up to four months in the federal facility before his mental capacity is re-assessed. If he fails to respond to treatment, a judge can dismiss the charges against him. In that event it is likely that he would be committed to a mental hospital indefinitely.

Mr Loughner has already denied 49 federal charges resulting from the shootings on 8 January at an event when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was meeting members of the public in Tucson, Arizona. A nine-year-old girl was among the six dead and a further 12 people were wounded.

His behaviour in court yesterday was erratic and after disrupting the hearing in the morning he was ordered from the courtroom and had to watch proceedings via a television link.

Before yesterday's court hearing Mr Loughner had been examined by two court-appointed experts, a psychologist and a psychiatrist, and the judge relied on their assessments to make his ruling.