Forensic psychiatry comprises the psychiatry of mental disorder and offending behaviour, that is clinical forensic psychiatry, plus law as it relates to all psychiatry, both civil and criminal law, or legal psychiatry. There is civil law relevant to all those with mental disorders, most obviously mental health law, but also potentially many other branches of civil law. However, mentally disordered offenders are both likely to be the subject of criminal law and will tend, in practice, to be subject more to the application of mental health, and other, law. Hence practitioners of clinical forensic psychiatry will also have much more involvement with legal psychiatry than occurs within general psychiatric practice. Put another way, clinical forensic psychiatry often underpins not only the assessment and treatment of mentally disordered offenders per se, but also assessment and reporting on them for legal purposes. Indeed, on many occasions the sole purpose of clinical forensic assessment may be so as to report into the criminal legal process.
This handbook is designed specifically to assist mental health professionals and lawyers engaged in capital trials, sentencing hearings, appeals and mercy hearings. It draws on ordinary principles of forensic psychiatric practice, and much of the text in regard to pre-trial issues and trials is common to all common law jurisdictions, for example in relation to ‘mental condition defences’. However, the handbook is ‘custom written’ specifically in regard to problems that can arise even at the trial and pre-trial stages in countries that both retain the death penalty and may lack the level of mental health services available, for example, in the UK and in regard to the unusual psycho-legal issues that can arise in relation to sentencing hearings, appeals from conviction and sentence, and mercy hearings.
This handbook is not only designed to be read ‘on its own’, but is also intended to be used in direct relation to education and training events offered by members of Forensic Psychiatry Chambers and the Death Penalty Project. It therefore, effectively, amounts to a ‘course book’ for such education and training.
Since much of the handbook is applicable to criminal legal contexts other than in capital cases, it is hoped that this will further enhance its utility, particularly in developing countries.
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