OBJECTIVE: The objective was to review psychiatric involvement
in seven prosecutorial workshops on criminal capacity between
2004 and 2009. The aim was to evaluate the changing role of
the psychiatrists in the workshops in order to identify areas in
forensic psychiatry where prosecutors have a specific need for
training, and to identify more suitable methods of training.
METHOD: The workshop programmes, copies of presentations,
the number of attending prosecutors at each workshop,
informal personal notes from the presenters, suggestions from
meetings in preparation for workshops and formatted feedback
reports were reviewed. Information from a total of seven
workshops was reviewed and interpreted by 2 psychiatrists from
Weskoppies Hospital Forensic Psychiatry Unit (WHFPU).
RESULTS: The psychiatrists’ involvement increased over the
years. Problematic topics that were identified include nonpathological
criminal incapacity, child psychiatry and the
different roles of the psychiatrist and the psychologist in court.
Exposure to practical aspects, interactive workshops with case
presentations, discussion groups and audience participation
seemed to be the preferred method of training. Attitudes
of prosecutors towards psychiatry improved with increased
knowledge and understanding of the field, and overall the
training was rated as relevant and enriching.
CONCLUSION: Psychiatrists can offer valuable training opportunities
to legal professionals about the major mental illnesses and
how they can affect criminal capacity, but evaluation of the
training should be an ongoing process to address changing
needs. Training sessions provide an opportunity for reciprocal
sensitisation between the different fields. The ultimate goal is
to work towards improved association between the criminal
justice and mental health systems.