A 4-year review of psychiatrists’ participation in prosecutorial workshops on criminal capacity

Carla Kotze, Paul Henry de Wet


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 non-pathological 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.


Criminal capacity, Prosecutor

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v17i4.267

Submitted: 15 August 2010
Published: 01 December 2011

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)