Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital treats people accused of the most serious crimes of all
Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital treats people accused of the most serious crimes

What is it like inside Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital where Oscar Pistorius is to spend one month as an out-patient while he undergoes psychiatric tests?

Weskoppies, located in western Pretoria, is a Victorian-era institution made up of single storey complexes with pleasant gardens lined with rows of flowers. It will probably come as a welcome respite from the North Gauteng High Court, where Pistorius has on occasion vomited due to stress of the court proceedings.

For the next month or so, he will find himself spending long periods of time at the former asylum for the criminally insane, which was built more than a century ago for detaining society's most dangerous criminals.

Nowadays, the focus is much more upon care and treatment of patients who have been admitted there – often for committing the most serious crimes such as murder.

No longer is it acceptable to simply lock up the patients and throw away the proverbial key at Weskoppies; times have changed and the place is now at the forefront of the psychiatric treatment in South Africa.

Like his fellow patients, Pistorius is accused of a grievous crime, but it is certain nobody else in the institution has seen their case unfold in such a blaze of publicity and scrutiny.

At the hospital a panel of three experts will probe Oscar Pistorius's mind for evidence of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Their findings will ultimately acquit him, or help condemn him.

It is not known whether Pistorius shall spend time mingling with any other patients during his spell there, but it's unlikely.

The average age of patients at Weskoppies is just over 30 years old and many of them will be facing murder charges, just like Pistorius.

A study published in 2011 found the patients in Weskoppies rarely used firearms in their crimes like he did against Reeva Steenkamp.

Apparently patients to the hospital most often used knives, and many are receiving evaluation because they may have attempted suicide as well as murder.

Pistorius's remorse over the killing of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year has manifested itself in other ways, as his court room reactions have clearly demonstrated.

He is under orders from Judge Thokozile Maispa to report to Weskoppies each day and not leave before 4pm. The trial has been adjourned until June 30.

Until then, his life will be in the hands of the clinical psychologists assigned to evaluate him.