The man who killed 77 people in one day of terrifying attacks in Oslo and on Utoeya Island should be placed in psychiatric care rather than prison, Norwegian prosecutors said yesterday, after court experts concluded that he was insane at the time of his rampage.
The report into the mental health of Anders Behring Breivik, based on 36 hours of interviews, concluded that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was so disconnected from reality that he was unable to control his actions. Breivik has admitted the crime, but pleaded not guilty to the charges. He says that the massacre, which largely focused on teenage members of the governing Labour Party, was intended as an act of anti-Muslim resistance.
"We haven't had any doubt. It's now up to the court to consider this during the trial," court psychiatrist Torgeir Husby told reporters.
The report is yet to be reviewed by a panel of forensic psychiatrists, and the head of that panel has previously indicated that it was unlikely that Breivik could be considered insane when he planned his attacks meticulously. But if that panel agrees with the findings, the court will be bound to abide by the experts' conclusions.
The prosecution said yesterday that the conduct of the trial, which is due to begin in April next year, would not be affected by the findings, with the report simply meaning that they would ask for a verdict of compulsory mental health care instead of a prison sentence.
"The court psychiatrists focus on what they call Breivik's grandiose delusions," prosecutor Svein Holden told reporters, expanding on the report's conclusions. "He feels chosen to determine who will live and die. And he feels chosen to rescue what he calls his people."
Breivik's infamous crimes constituted Norway's worst peacetime massacre. Much of the revulsion expressed in the weeks after the attacks focused on his cool insistence that he was at the vanguard of a coming political movement.
Some in Oslo were surprised yesterday that the report had concluded that Breivik was not in command of his actions, but most were more concerned that he is never set free than worry about where he serves his sentence.
"It came as a bit of a shock," Tim Viskjer, a member of the Labour Party's youth wing and survivor of the attack, told The Independent. But he added that he trusted the conclusions of the psychiatrists. "He needs to get the help that he needs to realise what he really has done," he said. "If he is subjected to compulsory mental health care, I am comfortable with that, but he has to be never let out into the public again."
Another survivor of the shootings at Utoeya Island, Audun Otterstad, said: "I trust the experts if they say he's insane. But sane or not, the most important thing is that he is locked up for life."
But Dr Tarjei Rygnestad, the head of the board that will review the report which had previously said that Breivik was unlikely to be declared legally insane, stopped short of an endorsement of the conclusions yesterday.
While saying that his earlier view had been based on second-hand information, he insisted that psychotic people were "usually not" capable of carrying out such a complicated operation as Breivik's rampage, which required intricate planning. "They again, unusual things also happen," hesaid.
The details of Breivik's condition were brushed aside by the national support group for the survivors of the attacks of July 22.
"If Breivik cannot be sentenced to prison, we hope that the court process will give us comfort that he isn't let out earlier than if he had been deemed sane by the psychiatric experts," Trond Blattmann, the group's leader, said. "We, who are victims, do not wish that Behring Breivik will have the opportunity to harm society again."