Fitness to plead and psychiatric reports
Larkin, Emmet P.
Collins, P. J.
MetadataShow full item record
The role of the psychiatrist in the determination of fitness to plead is reviewed by reference to 77 pre-trial psychiatric reports prepared on 31 Special Hospital patients detained under the provision of Section 5(1)(c) (Unfit to Plead) of the Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1964. Each psychiatric report was analysed using a standardized checklist which addressed the legal criteria used to determine fitness to plead, the nature of the alleged offence and the clinical diagnosis. The results showed that almost 40% of the reports made no mention of fitness to plead at all and that only one-third of the reports made a statement about fitness to plead which was supported by reference to standard legal criteria. The results of this study support earlier work which has suggested that psychiatrists have a poor understanding of the issues surrounding fitness to plead and criminal responsibility. These findings are discussed in relation to recommendations made by the Report of the Committee on Mentally Abnormal Offenders, 1975 (Butler Report) and legislative changes introduced by the Mental Health Act 1983.