THE State has disputed the findings of a psychiatrist at Chainama Hills Hospital that one of the men accused of abducting, raping and assaulting 13 women in Lusaka, James Bwalya, is not fit to stand trial, due to a conduct disorder, yet he has no mental illness.
State advocate Bob Mwewa has since requested Lusaka High Court judge Charles Kafunda to order for a second opinion on Bwalya’s mental state.
In this matter, Bwalya and his co-accused, Matthews Sikaonga, are charged with 54 counts of aggravated robbery, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, prohibition of trafficking in humans for purposes of sexual exploitation, rape and abduction.
Dr Patrick Msoni, a consultant psychiatrist, told the court that Bwalya has an anti-social personality disorder and that he is not fit to stand trial.
He said based on the psychiatric evaluation, Bwalya’s developmental history revealed that the accused developed a conduct disorder whilst in secondary school, as he was aggressive towards other pupils and usually bullied them.
Dr Msoni explained that Bwalya would abuse alcohol and cannabis and the conduct disorder “graduated to having anti-social personality disorder and as of now, because of this disorder which is deeply ingrained, he’s not fit to stand trial.”
During cross examination by Mwewa, Dr Msoni said Bwalya denied having committed the offences during his mental examination and that people with such a disorder do not stick to their word and lie a lot.
When asked if lying is a mental illness, Dr Msoni denied.
He clarified that Bwalya is not mentally unsound but that during his mental assessment, he gave different statements, smiled uncontrollably, hence his conclusion that Bwalya does not understand nor appreciate the charges against him or consult a with reasonable degree of rational understanding.
The psychiatrist said Bwalya’s co-accused Sikaonga is fit to stand trial as he has no mental disorder or illness.
He said during secondary school, Sikaonga joined a peer group and that they bullied other pupils, abused cannabis and alcohol, and absented himself from school.
“He grew out of it and managed to get satisfactory Grade 12 results. He enrolled in colleges and fell out in second year upon meeting his school mate (Bwalya),” said Dr Msoni.
Earlier, Dr Brian Sokontwe, a consultant surgeon and spine specialist at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), said according to the physical examination that he conducted on Bwalya, he established that the accused’s spine was dislocated due to a deformity at the junction of the thoracic and lumbar spine.
Dr Sokontwe said Bwalya sustained a spinal cord injury when he fell from a five metre brick wall in an attempt to break free from Mwembeshi Correctional Facility.
He said according to Bwalya’s explanation, the latter could not walk after his “Humpty Dumpty” fall as he had bowel and bladder dysfunction for a week.
He said Bwalya staggered and was aided to walk by Sikaonga.
“I examined his back and I discovered he had a deformity at the junction of the thoracic spine (vertebrae area) and the lumbar spine (backbone). He was tender in the region of the deformity (Kyphotic deformity), the shape of the spine has changed instead of bending forward, it’s bending backwards,” Dr Solontwe said.
“I did a neurological exam and discovered he had reduced sensation on the left side in the region of the thigh. I tested the strength in the upper and lower limbs; he had weekness in the lower limb one grade lower than the normal.”
Dr Sokontwe further explained that the X-ray showed that Bwalya had a near dislocation at lumbar spine one and two and a fracture in the bone of lumber spine two and the stabiliser of the spine in the region of deformity were disrupted.
He proposed that Bwalaya’s anatomy in the the spinal region need to be restored in order to stabilise the spine, because leaving it untreated could cause instability, excessive pain and further damage to the spinal code and other neural elements.
“The patient has not been strictly under bed rest in this case we should proceed with the time remaining to complete the six weeks of the bed rest. He has to do two weeks of the bed rest, then we are going to do another physical exam and X-ray before we can start to walk him again,” suggested Dr Sokontwe.
Mwewa asked the court to direct that Bwalya answers to the charges pursuant to Section 17 and 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) since he has no mental illness as indicated in the medical report that all his mental faculties were functional.
Bwalya’s lawyer Osborne Ngoma opposed the application, saying the psychiatric evaluation was clear that his client is not fit to undergo trial and the same may not be just, for failure to follow the proceedings as well as understanding and appreciating the charges.
“It is not incumbent upon us the legal gurus to trail in the mental field and offer our opinion but it is incumbent upon the medical gurus such as Dr Msoni to provide an opinion which is an expert opinion. And we have revarrage to analysis and follow that medical expert opinion,” said Ngoma.
In response, Mwewa proposed that the court orders for a second opinion on Bwalya’s mental examination by another psychiatrist.
“The State is asking the court to make a determination of the reports submitted and not only focus on the conclusion as submitted by the defence. The court should request for a second opinion,” said Mwewa.
Judge Kafunda adjourned the matter to tomorrow for a determination on the medical report and a directive on the request for a second opinion.
By Mwaka Ndawa
Kalemba April 18, 2023.