LONDON — Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik insists in court that attempts to label him as insane are misplaced — and some psychiatrists agree that simply committing such monstrous crimes does not mean a person is mentally ill.
The far-right, anti-Islam Breivik has confessed to committing Norway's worst mass murder in a bombing-and-shooting rampage that killed 77 people last July. Whether he is sane is at the crux of his ongoing trial and will determine how he is sentenced.
"Everyone's first assumption is that Breivik must be insane because he's done such terrible things," said Dr. Simon Wessely, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London.
In a commentary published today in the British medical journal Lancet, Wessely writes that explanation is too simplistic.
For the 33-year-old Norwegian to be schizophrenic — as some psychiatrists have suggested — his actions would have to be the result of delusions, or based on beliefs not shared by others.
"As ghastly as his views are, there are other people in society who believe countries are being destroyed by multiculturalism and Islam," Wessely said.
Breivik's extraordinarily well-organized and methodical massacre also undermines the idea that he was suffering from a serious mental illness.
One Norwegian psychiatric report found Breivik to be insane, while a second concluded he is sane. A panel of judges is hearing weeks of testimony to decide which is correct.
Some experts said the publicly known information about Breivik and his crimes suggest he has a personality disorder, like psychopathy and narcissism. That may also be apparent in Breivik's complete lack of empathy for his victims or his tendency to remain emotionless in court.
If found guilty and sane, Breivik will face 21 years in prison, though he could be held longer if deemed a danger to society. If declared insane, he would be committed to mandatory psychiatric care.