Forensic psychiatric services

Comprehensive forensic psychiatric services will include a source of independent assessment and expert advice for lawyers and the courts, which is closely linked to the provision of treatment and management services. In the United Kingdom those who manage services providing assessment and treatment also give expert opinions to the courts on behalf of the prosecution, defence, or at the request of the court itself. After a general psychiatric training in the United Kingdom doctors may obtain an approved training post for further specialist training. The Royal College of Psychiatrists and a Committee on Higher Psychiatric Training establish standards for the training of forensic psychiatrists.

In some other countries, for instance, the United States, a profession of expert forensic witnesses has developed over the years, psychiatrists who often do not also provide treatment services. The United States has also developed specialized training programmes, with certification following Board examinations. In other European countries and in Commonwealth countries, such as Australia, there is no established training or distinct specialty of forensic psychiatry.

In Denmark, the Medico-Legal Council plays a key role in co-ordinating expert evidence in legal cases. This is a statutory advisory body consisting of 11 ordinary members, of whom seven are psychiatrists and experts from other fields of medicine. The courts and some other bodies can request an independent opinion from the Council which also monitors the quality of psychiatric reports. In Switzerland forensic psychiatry is linked to prison medicine and forensic medicine as 'legal medicine', in Geneva co-ordinated by the University Department.

Forensic services may be linked to prisons and may co-ordinate care at different levels of security, community services, and schemes to divert offenders with psychiatric problems from the criminal justice to health and social services support.

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