Psychiatric evaluation of offenders referred to the Free State Psychiatric Complex according to sections 77 and/ or 78 of the Criminal Procedures Act

F J W Calitz, P H J J van Rensburg, C Fourie, E Liebenberg, C van den Berg, G Joubert


Background. The increase in crime is a problem of great concern in South Africa and complications arise when the accused is mentally ill.

Objective. Analysis of the offenders referred to the Free State Psychiatric Complex from 1995 to 2001 according to section 77 (triability) and/or section 78 (accountability) of the Criminal Procedures Act (Act 51 of 1977).

Method. The study population consisted of 514 persons awaiting trial in the Free State. They were referred to the Free State Psychiatric Complex for 30 days’ observation from 1995 to 2001. A data form was created and used to transfer the relevant information from the accused’s clinical files.

Data analysis. The data collected were analysed by the Department of Biostatistics at the University of the Free State.

Results. The majority of the offenders were male (94.6%) and unmarried (66.3%). The median age of the group was 30 years. The unemployment rate was 60%. Most of the referrals (84.2%) were in terms of sections 77 and 78. The accused were found to have mainly average intelligence (75.3%). The main offences were theft (27.8%), murder (18.9%), assault (18.1%) and rape (16.2%). The most common mental disorder diagnosed was schizophrenia (23.0%), with 54.3% having no mental disorder. Nearly half the offenders (48.6%) were found to be triable and accountable.

Conclusion. The majority of the offenders referred for psychiatric observation were found to have no mental illness and were referred back to the courts. This results in high costs for the Department of Health. To reduce the high rate of unnecessary referrals it is recommended that courts give clear reasons for the referrals according to each section (77 and 78).

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Submitted: 04 March 2008
Published: 01 September 2006

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