Anders Breivik: Is he mad or just bad?

There has been much debate as to whether Anders Breivik is sane or insane Credit: REUTERS/Hakon Mosvold

By Davina Fenton

There has been a lot of debate as to mass killer Anders Breivik's state of mind when he carried out his attacks in Norway last July, namely, was he sane or insane?

During his ten-week trial, court-appointed psychiatrists will be assessing Breivik and his eventual sentence could depend on whether a panel of judges decides he is sane or psychotic.

A recent report by forensic psychiatrists Agnar Aspaas and Terje Toerrissen concluded that Breivik was sane when he killed 77 people.

They also said that he did not exhibit any signs of psychosis during their assessment.

If Breivik is found guilty and the judges agree with this report, he could face 21 years in prison with the potential for indefinite extensions to prevent him from repeating his crimes.

If he is eventually ruled psychotic, Breivik would likely face an indefinite period of psychiatric care in a locked facility.

Following the April report, Breivik's lawyer Geir Lippestad said his client was satisfied with the psychiatrists' conclusion and agreed that he "is mentally sane."

But previously, a separate set of experts, who carried out an assessment last year found Breivik to be insane. They concluded he was a paranoid schizophrenic and was psychotic at the time of the crime.

So, why the conflicting results?

Well, psychiatry is not an exact science, and diagnoses do differ but inevitably there are questions as to why the two assessments are so different.

Anders Breivik following his arrest on Utoya island in July last year Credit: APTN

Terje Toerrissen said of the latest report completed this month:

When asked about the discrepancy with the earlier report, she said:

Professor David Canter, Director of Forensic Psychology at Liverpool University, agrees with the conclusions of the latest report. He told ITV News:

Breivik himself has previously said, to be labelled insane, would be “a fate worse than death”.

David Charters from The Times has beenwriting about Breivik's desire to be found sane to give his hateful ideology legitimacy(£). He writes:

Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik gestures as he arrives for his terrorism and murder trial in a courtroom in Oslo Credit: Reuters

David Wilson, Professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, thinks it is quite right that there has been a debate about Breivik's state of mind, but stresses making moral judgements about his views and behaviour is very different from assessing his mental responsibility for his behaviour.

Professor Wilson read Breivik's full manifesto as he was interested in his thought processes. He does not think he is insane and believes he rationally carried out a bomb attack in Oslo and then went on a shooting spree on Utoeya Island.

People pay their respects for the victims at temporary memorial site on the shore in front of Utoeya island northwest of Oslo Credit: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch (N

Professor Wilson said: