Businessperson and Cashgate suspect Osward Lutepo has been as been ordered to undergo a mental examination to determine if he is medically fit for trial in the various charges he is facing which include theft, money laundering and conspiracy to commit murder.
According to the ruling sourced by Nyasa Times, Justice Redson Kapindu made the order in the High Court in Zomba on Thursday March 5, 2015 after Lutepo’s lawyer Osward Mtupila made an application for an order for assessment of the accused person’s mental health for purposes of his fitness to stand trial, presently.
The application was supported by the Affidavit of Shunem Nkosi, who said Lutepo is his Cousin and that he has been his guardian ever since he fell ill in November 2014.
Nkosi informed the court that Lutepo’s illness started back in November 2014 when he collapsed whilst in custody at Lilongwe Police Station, and was rushed to Kamuzu Central Hospital for treatment. Upon being examined, he was diagnosed with “panic and anxiety disorder. “
On 23 January 2015 Lutepo was admitted once again at Katoto MASM Medi-Clinic in the City of Mzuzu where he received similar diagnosis. He was again prescribed medication and referred to Mzuzu Central Hospital.
The court was told that the examining physician stated that “according to our observation, the patient needs a specialist consultation (psychiatric) for more investigation and better management.”
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Mrs. Mary Kachale did not object to the application for the medical examination.
However she asked the Court to be “very specific and detailed” as to the particular aspects of assessment required for purposes of the case proceedings, in order to guide the psychiatric specialists in making their forensic psychiatric assessment.
Kapindu invoked Section 133 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code which outlines the process under which an accused person can be declared mentally incapacitated to stand trial.
“ I have given this matter my most careful consideration. I take into account that the State does not oppose the application. When all the facts, particularly the representations from highly qualified and competent medical professionals that have been made are considered, I opine that there is enough suggestion to trigger the operation of the observation, assessment and/or treatment procedure laid down under Section 133 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code ,” ruled Justice Kapindu.
He granted the application made by lawyer Ntupila on behalf of Lutepo.
However, the court ordered that Lutepo should, be kept at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in the City of Blantyre, and the hospital administrator should “keep the accused person in custody thereat, for observation, treatment and psychiatric assessment as to his fitness for trial.”
The Judge says the Hospital Director (or any such person currently having overall charge of QECH) should cause two psychiatric specialists, one being Dr. Jennifer Ahrens, mentioned in Nkosi’s affidavit, and another to be appointed by the said Hospital Director to conduct an independent assessment of the mental condition of Lutepo, and in particular, “his capacity to stand trial in criminal proceedings.”
In the ruling, the Judge said should the Hospital Director of QECH form the opinion that Lutepo be referred to a specialist mental institution for such observation, treatment and psychiatric assessment, he or she shall make such a clinical decision on professional grounds, and communicate the same to the Court immediately for the Courts prior endorsement, before transferring the accused person to such other health facility.
The Judge said: “Without restricting the generality of the assessment that the psychiatric specialists may make in their Report, the Court specifically invites the specialists to consider the following factors that the Court shall consider when making its determination on the accused person’s fitness to stand trial.
- His ability and/or capacity to comprehend the charges framed against him;
- His ability and/or capacity to realise the seriousness of the penalties if proven guilty;
iii. His ability and/or capacity to follow the proceedings of the court;
iv. His ability and/or capacity to help his lawyer to defend his case;
- His ability and/or capacity to maintain appropriate behaviour in the court; and
- His ability and/or capacity to competently give his own evidence should the need arise and should he elect to do so.”
The Judge said the medical reports herein should be furnished to the court no later than 30 days from March 5.
“The Court shall require two reports, one each from the two psychiatric specialists, which will be compiled and issued independently of each other,” said Justice Kapindu.
The court adjourned the case to 16th of April 2015 “to consider the Reports of the psychiatric specialists” on Lutepo person’s mental health and capacity to stand trial.
Lutepo is regarded a chief cashgate suspect and has been making media confession on his wrong doing -not yet known if the media plea was in sound mental health.
A forensic audit report into the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill due to abuse of public finance management tools dubbed ‘Cashgate’ established that K24 billion was stolen between April and September 2013. However, Cashgate dates back to 2005 when the Integrated Financial Management and Information System (Ifmis) was launched.
Through various means, Lutepo allegedly got the second highest payments on the list of individuals amounting to K4.4 billion (US$9.8 million).