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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

CR147. Court Work

Price: £10.00

Approved: Jul 2007

Published: Jan 2008

Status: under review

Number of pages: 39

Review by: 2012

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This report sets out the College’s view on the complex issues of the involvement of psychiatrists in legal processes. The basic principles and recommendations provided are intended to be helpful to psychiatrists working within any legal system.

Psychiatrists are not expected to be legally trained, but if they are to function effectively when working within a legal framework they must be trained in using their psychiatric expertise and ethical understanding. This document will support all psychiatrists who work at the interface between psychiatry and the law. It aims to ensure that psychiatrists working in legal settings feel confident and prepared in their role, so that they can continue to make their enormous contribution to the welfare of their patients and the administration of justice.

The recommendations cover principles of practice for all psychiatrists as well as expert witnesses. Recommendations are also made about training for legal processes, both during psychiatric training and as an integral part of continuing professional development (CPD). The report therefore has implications for the training of all psychiatrists, their training schemes and their personal development plans.

(This report is not a textbook on how to deal with legal processes, nor does it specifically address variations between the legal systems of the different parts of the UK; although the scoping group’s experience was largely of the English legal system.) 



  • Scoping Group on Court Work
  • Executive summary and recommendations
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • The interface between psychiatry and the law
  • Duties of a psychiatrist
  • Duties of a psychiatric expert witness
  • Training and continuing professional development
  • The structure of reports
  • The commissioning of reports and relation to employment
  • Quality and supply
  • Accreditation
  • References


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