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INSIGHT: understanding and control in forensic psychiatric reports and court verdicts

AIMS

The project aims to identify how questions regarding the ability to understand and control one’s behaviour have been treated in forensic psychiatric investigations, in the related district court verdicts, how judgments of criminal intent are related to these assessments and, subsequently, to analyze the function of the concepts in legal praxis.

IMPORTANCE

The results will be important both for the understanding of how the current law works in practice, as well as to provide an empirical basis for a political decision about a new legislation. In a recent governmental report: (2012:17), a re-introduction of the concept of accountabilty in Swedish criminal law is suggested. The definition of accountability proposed is very close to the characterisation of the abilities of understanding and control which are done today; in accordance with the Swedish Criminal Code (Chapter 30 article 6 paragraph 2). The project shows that the concepts of understanding and control is interpreted differently in the forensic psychiatric reports and court verdicts, respectively. Although these differences present little practical importance today, they would have a significant impact if the legislation suggested in 2012:17 would come into force. The result of this study is not just of interest for the Swedish context, since the section of the Criminal Code above is very similar to definitions of accountability used in legislations worldwide.

Sub study 1:

Aim:

The aim of this study is to compile how assessments of understanding and control have been done in forensic psychiatric reports from July 1st 2008 to January 31st 2010, and, taking the assessments as a starting point, provide reasonable and useful interpretations of the concepts at hand, as well as relating them to psychiatric factors.

Method:

First, a quanitative study was conducted in order to give an overview of if the questions of understanding and action control had at all been discussed in the forensic psychiatric investigations. From this survey, 20 reports were selected for a closer evaluation with regard to content. In a third step, the analysis of these reports formed the basis for a wider discussion of how the concepts can be interpreted in this context, and in what way psychiatric symptoms and psychological impairments may hamper these abilitities.

Principal Investigator:
Susanna Radovic

Researcher:
Karolina Gustavsson

Sub study 2:

Aim:

The aim of this study is to describe how the capacities of understanding the meaning of the act and adjusting one’s actions according to such understanding have been interpreted by the forensic psychiatric teams in Sweden. More specifically; what factors and circumstances are put forward as arguments for and against these abilities? Furthermore, the study has investigated how questions related to these issues are treated in the court verdicts that follow.

Method:

The study is based on 134 forensic psychiatric reports issued in 2010 at the forensic psychiatric special units in Stockholm and Gothenburg (460 reports were issued in Sweden this year, 411 of them in Stockholm or Gothenburg).

Principal Investigator:
Susanna Radovic

Researcher:
Tova Bennet


Collaborating organisations:
University of Gothenburg and
The National Board of Forensic Medicine

Contact Information

Susanna Radovic

Contact Information

Tova Bennet

Page Manager: Stefan Axelsson|Last update: 11/3/2014
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