Comments in response to the news that lawyers for the teenager accused of throwing a child off the Tate Modern viewing platform will obtain a psychiatric report before the trial commences in February 2020.
Prof Seena Fazel, Professor of Forensic Psychiatry, University of Oxford, said:
“In cases like this, even if someone is reported to have a mental health condition, this may not be related to what happened. Psychiatric reports, occasionally supplemented by a period of observation and treatment in hospital, can assist in clarifying whether the defendant has a diagnosable mental illness and whether it contributed to the alleged actions. Although there is an established link between mental illness and violence, which is independent of social factors, it remains the case that a minority of psychiatric patients are ever violent towards others. It is important to highlight that the research evidence clearly shows that treatment reduces these risks.”
Prof David Curtis, Retired Consultant Psychiatrist and Honorary Professor at UCL and QMUL, said:
“It has been reported that the initial psychiatric assessment is to determine fitness to plead. In general this involves assessing whether the defendant has a broad understanding of the nature of the situation, the fact that they are on trial and the implications of pleading guilty or not guilty. It is fairly rare for a defendant to be found unfit to plead because this implies a very severe limitation of their capacity. In future it will be possible to organise additional psychiatric assessments which can assess whether the defendant has some form of mental disorder which may have influenced his behaviour. If he is convicted the court can take notice of such assessments and may use them to help decide on his sentence. For example the court could order detention in a secure psychiatric hospital rather than a prison sentence.”
Prof Seena Fazel: No declarations of interest
Prof David Curtis: I have no conflict of interest