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New Professional Resources Published on Mental Health in Capital Cases

  • News
  • 8 Jan 2018

The Death Penalty Project and Forensic Psychiatry Chambers have released two new publications, together providing an authoritative guide on the application of mental health law in capital cases.

The resources respond to the knowledge that, in many countries that retain the death penalty, mental health issues are not being sufficiently addressed by the courts, leading to miscarriages of justice and putting vulnerable individuals at risk. The second edition Handbook of Forensic Psychiatric Practice in Capital Cases and new compendium Casebook of Forensic Psychiatric Practice in Capital Cases will be officially launched in Delhi tomorrow at an interdisciplinary mental health training workshop for judges, lawyers and mental health professionals, coordinated by The Death Penalty Project and the National Law University, Delhi.

The two publications have been drafted by forensic psychiatrists Professor Nigel Eastman, Dr Richard Latham and Dr Marc Lyall and clinical forensic psychologist, Dr Sanya Krljes. The publications provide practical advice and assistance not only to mental health professionals but also instructing lawyers, prosecutors, presiding judges and others working within the criminal justice system. The Handbook guides the reader through the role of the forensic psychiatrist in criminal proceedings and key principles of mental health law while the Casebook uses real-life examples to address ethical and professional questions and explore the application of legal principles.

Despite an established body of international law clearly prohibiting the execution of individuals with mental disorder, it is all too common to find people with serious mental illness on death row. The publications address gaps in the implementation of the rights afforded to those with mental disorder, building on the success of the first edition Handbook, which has been used in conjunction with focused training programmes in many countries to deepen understanding of principles of mental health law.

Norma Jeffrey, a social worker in Antigua and Barbuda who has attended The Death Penalty Project’s mental health training workshops, says:

“The Handbook has provided me with practical assistance on drafting expert reports on client’s condition and has helped me to better understand the legal process and the role of medical opinion in criminal proceedings. It was extremely useful to bring lawyers, medical professionals and others together in one room to increase knowledge of the different disciplines and explore the issues together.”

The updated Handbook and newly provided Casebook will accompany future training programmes for legal and medical professionals, such as that being delivered in India this week. They will support those within the criminal justice process to fairly and accurately address mental health issues as they arise in capital cases, leading to greater protection of those suffering from mental disorder.


Emma Courtenay S.C., former President of the Bar of Belize:

“Mental health is such an important area in criminal proceedings but is often steered away from due to a lack of expertise and experience. The Handbook and DPP’s training has provided members of the bar in Belize with an improved confidence and understanding in addressing mental health considerations, thereby ensuring fairer trials.’

Justice Cheng-Chiou Teng, Justice of the Supreme Court in Taiwan and leader of a delegation of Taiwanese judges to the UK in 2017:

DPP’s Handbook and training provides expert assistance to legal and medical professionals. A good understanding of issues of mental health law is critical for the functioning of the criminal justice process and to ensure that Taiwan adheres to its international obligations towards those with mental disorder’



Notes to Editors

The authors of the publications, Handbook of Forensic Psychiatric Practice in Capital Cases and Casebook of Forensic Psychiatric Practice in Capital Cases are Professor Nigel Eastman, Dr Sanya Krljes, Dr Richard Latham and Dr Marc Lyall. Both publications were made possible by a grant to The Death Penalty Project from the Magna Carta Fund of the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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