Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people and wounded 151 during a rampage in July that led to calls for stricter controls on videogames, has been diagnosed as a delusional paranoid schizophrenic by Norwegian psychiatrists.
Anders Breivik carried out one of the most horrific acts of mass murder ever recorded on July 22, first with a car bomb in the capital of Oslo that left eight people dead and then in a shooting spree at a youth camp being held on the nearby island of Utoeya that killed 69 more, mostly teenagers. He was captured alive and admitted to the crimes but said it was justified as part of his campaign to defend Europe against a Muslim invasion.
Unsurprisingly, some mainstream media outlets made a link between Breivik and videogames, noting his claim in a lengthy manifesto that Modern Warfare 2 was part of his “training regimen” and that he’d been able to cover up his real planning and training for the attack by claiming that he had a bad World of Warcraft habit. Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Jim Wallace used the attack to call for a ban on violent games and some Norwegian retailers removed a number of violent games from their shelves, albeit temporarily, “out of respect” to the victims of the attack.
But even less surprising than the determination by some to link the attack to videogames is today’s announcement that games had far less to do with it than straight-up mental illness. Two psychiatrists appointed by the Norwegian courts who have interviewed Breivik 13 times since the attack have diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia, saying he was in a psychotic state during and after the attacks and lives in his “own delusional universe where all his thoughts and acts are guided by his delusion.”
Breivik will still stand trial for the killings but if a review panel from the Norwegian Board of Forensic Medicine agrees with the assessment, prosecutors will seek “compulsory mental health care” rather than jail time. “It will go as a normal trial as if he had been sane,” prosecutor Inga Bejer told the BBC. “We will ask him questions and the defence will ask him questions and the judge will ask him questions and he will have his time to talk.”
Not everyone is happy with the diagnosis, including the leader of the opposition Progress Party, but John Christian Elden, a lawyer for the victims, said it didn’t matter whether he was ruled sane or not as long as he wasn’t set free. “What will happen in the case, no matter what the conclusion, is that [Breivik] will of course be incarcerated,” he said. “And if the outcome is criminally sane or insane, that is first and foremost a psychiatric question. The most important thing in our clients’ opinion is that he will not be able to walk the streets.”
Breivik’s trial begins on April 16, 2012, and is expected to take about ten weeks.