n Servamus Community-based Safety and Security Magazine - When accused persons are referred for psychiatric observation...

Volume 109 Number 8
  • ISSN : 1015-2385


We often hear about individuals who are suspected of a heinous crime and who the court orders to undergo psychiatric observation or psycholegal assessment before the court can proceed with the case. Many people are unclear of exactly what this entails. With the following contribution I will try to provide a brief overview of what this process entails. Psychiatric observation can be conducted either to develop a treatment process or for legal purposes (eg when the court refers a person for observation). The aim is to identify signs of pathology and causes thereof; to understand the accused's situation and to identify and recognise the accused's distress so that a diagnosis and an informed decision can be made. The eventual diagnoses can be key in an accused's life, as the observation report can have a significant impact on the outcome of the court case. For instance, the accused could be deemed unfit to stand trial and could be referred to a psychiatric hospital for treatment (Phaneuf, 2007). In instances where the accused becomes a patient, a therapeutic plan and proper monitoring will have to take place.

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