Psychologist argues against jail for pensioner

WINDHOEK Windhoek based psychologist, Edwina Mensah-Husselmann yesterday recommended to High Court Judge Naomi Shivute that Aranos farmer, Willem Visagie Barnard, 64, should not spend any more time in jail.

Barnard has been incarcerated at the Windhoek Correctional facility's section for trial awaiting prisoners since his conviction on a charge of murder with direct intent read with the provisions of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act in January this year.

Mensah-Husselmann was roped in by the defense team to give expert opinion on whether the elderly murder convict will survive a prolonged jail term.

According to the psychologist the court should seriously consider suspending Barnard's sentence as he has been suffering from his health, especially mentally since the time of the crime in 2010.

Incarceration is not an ideal sentence, due to the fact that the offender has severe illnesses, he currently does not have a good quality of life and is not likely to have a long lifespan, Mensah-Husselmann informed the court.

According to her, the trial proceedings and prison time he has already served coupled with the various losses he suffered, such as loss of income and loss of social status has been punishment enough.

Barnard was convicted by Judge Shivute of the intentional murder of his 55-year old wife, Anette Barnard, with a single gunshot to the head at the couple's farm, Choris in the Aranos area on April 09, 2010.

In a plea explanation submitted to court at the start of his trial, he said that if the court finds that he was the one that pulled the trigger, then he would claim non-pathological criminal incapacity which is temporary insanity caused by taking a combination of Benzodiazepine drugs and alcohol.

Barnard claimed that he blacked out after a heavy drinking session combined with him taking prescription drugs and that when he woke up he found the deceased lying with her head on a coffee table with a bullet wound through her skull.

However, Judge Shivute was not inclined to believe that.

Although the substances taken by the accused are capable of causing loss of memory which may result in temporary non-pathological criminal incapability as testified to by Dr Max, a holistic approach to all the evidence reveals that the accused was in control of his mental faculties although he was drunk to a certain extent, the judge remarked.

She went on to say that Barnard was able to remember most of what happened, but conveniently had a lapse of memory of the crucial event.

Barnard claimed during his testimony in mitigation of sentence that he is struggling in prison as he suffers from severe immobility because of severe pain in his shoulders and back. He claims that he struggles to get into bed and has great difficulty to clean himself without help.

He submitted doctor's certificates that indicate he need surgery on his shoulders and back to ease his suffering.

Mensah-Husselmann further told the court that Barnard confessed to her that prison is breaking him. She said that his incarceration has brought about extreme feelings of distrust and fear. She told the court that at the time of the incident, Barnard acted under substantially reduced criminal capacity because of intoxication, severe emotional stress and provocation.

The psychologist was also of the expert opinion Barnard is not a threat to the community and as such there is no need to keep him custody to stop him re-offending.

The State is represented by Advocate Cliff Lutibezi and Barnard by Advocate Louis Botes on instructions from SC Garbers.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia