Psychiatric evaluation of intellectually disabled offenders referred to the Free State Psychiatric Complex, 1993-2003

F J W Calitz, P H J J van Rensburg, P P de Jager, M L Olander, L Thomas, R Venter, G A Wessels, G Joubert


Background. Increased crime is a problem in South Africaand complications arise when the accused is intellectuallydisabled. The accountability and fitness to stand trial ofsuch individuals is an important facet that needs to bemanaged by the judicial and health systems.Objective. To analyse the accountability and triability ofintellectually disabled people awaiting trial referred tothe Free State Psychiatric Complex (FSPC) from 1993 to2003 according to Sections 77 and 78 of the CriminalProcedures Act (Act 51 of 1977).Method. A retrospective study was conducted. The studypopulation consisted of 80 intellectually disabled peopleawaiting trial in the Free State, referred to the FSPC. Thereason for referral was the possibility that they were nottriable or accountable. A data form was compiled totransfer the relevant information from the patients’ clinicalfiles.Results. The study found that the majority of subjectswere male (96.3%), unmarried (76.3%) and unemployed(63.8%). The median age was 27 years. A relativelyhigh percentage (49%) had received some schoolingand 16% had attended a special school. Most (32%)were referred from the Bloemfontein area and 68% werereferred from the remainder of the Free State and otherareas. The majority were referred according to Sections77 and 78. The highest number of the offences were ofa sexual nature (78%). Of the subjects, 62 (62.5%) werediagnosed as having mild mental retardation, while 16%were diagnosed as having moderate mental retardation.A total of 71 (71.25%) were found to be untriable andunaccountable.Conclusion. Triability and accountability are not onlyreflected by IQ score, but also involve the accused’sunderstanding of his/her environment, his/her speechand language proficiency, level of education, reasoningability and the manner in which the crime was committed.It is important to note that having an IQ of 70 or less doesnot automatically mean that the accused is unfit to standtrial or is not accountable. It is possible for an intellectuallydisabled person to be triable, accountable or diminishedaccountable.

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Submitted: 08 January 2008
Published: 01 December 2007

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