The trial date of a South African woman accused of killing her three children in New Zealand has been set – but the courts have allocated around 18 months for an assessment of her mental state.
Lauren Dickason, 40, a doctor from Pretoria, was arrested last month in connection with the murder of her three children - two-year-old twin girls, Maya and Karla, and their six-year-old sister Liane.
The girls were found murdered in their Timaru home by their father, orthopaedic surgeon Dr Graham Dickason. The family recently moved to New Zealand after Graham was offered a job.
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Dickason’s trial has been set for March 2023. This is reportedly to allow for several assessments to be carried out.
According to The South African, the trial was set down for March 2023 to allow for a psychiatric report to be completed and reviewed by the presiding judge, as well as further assessments of her mentals state over the next 18 months.
Dickason is currently detained at Hillmorton Hospital in Christchurch.
She made her first court appearance on 18 September and was referred to hospital for mental evaluation. She was due to have appeared in court via an audiovisual link from hospital on Tuesday 5 October, but the court heard more time was needed for her health assessment, the New Zealand Herald reported.
The case appeared again in the High Court at Christchurch on Friday. Dickason was excused from attending, even via audiovisual link, as she remains unwell. However, her counsel informed the court that she intended to plead not guilty to the charges.
During the court sitting, Justice Cameron Mander reportedly requested that Dickason provide written notice of her not guilty pleas, to allow legal representative Kerryn Beaton QC to enter the pleas on her behalf on Friday, Stuff reported.
During the sitting, Mander was informed that the defence was arranging an independent psychiatric report, to be submitted alongside the Crown’s.
The specific information contained in those reports is suppressed, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Dickason is remanded to Hillmorton until her next appearance, which was reportedly supported by her treating psychiatrist.
Dickason will remain in custody at Hillmorton Hospital’s forensic unit until her trial, or until the detention was deemed no longer necessary, said Mander. A case review hearing has been set for December 17.