Section 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act is a section of law that permits a Court to divert some offenders from the criminal justice system into mental health treatment.
It is not suitable for all people who have committed an offence and consideration as to the appropriateness of using Section 32 will necessitate comprehensive psychiatric assessment usually by a consultant forensic psychiatrist.
In undertaking a psychiatric assessment, a forensic psychiatrist will consider the nature of the psychiatric illness and may make recommendations to the Court about the necessary treatment. A usual requirement of a Section 32 Report is the inclusion of a treatment plan. Although not strictly required by law, it is often the case that the Court will seek to identify a relationship between the psychiatric illness or mental condition and the offending behaviour. Therefore, as part of a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation the forensic psychiatrist will typically be asked to consider whether there is a relationship between the psychiatric illness or mental condition and the offending behaviour. In formulating a treatment plan in accordance with Section 32, the consultant forensic psychiatrist will often be asked to comment on the potential that compliance with the recommended treatment will reduce or prevent further offending behaviour.
It is appropriate for the solicitor requiring a Section 32 report to refer the matter to a psychiatric experienced in providing comprehensive psychiatric assessments specifically for this purpose. Utilising a general psychiatrist rather than a consultant forensic psychiatrist has the potential to prove costly. Forensic psychiatrists are experienced in the requirements of a Section 32 application and aware of what a comprehensive psychiatric assessment will entail. The report must conform with requirements of the Court to enable the Section 32 application to be considered.
A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation for a Section 32 application will necessitate consideration of the past psychiatric history including response to treatment and history of compliance with treatment. In the event that there have been prior Section 32 applications, the forensic psychiatrist may be required to express an opinion as to the basis for the compromised success of prior treatment plans.
In a Section 32 report, a forensic psychiatrist may also be asked to comment on the potential needs of the accused in the event of incarceration.
In this way, if Section 32 application is not accepted, the accused will receive optimal mental health care. An experienced consultant forensic psychiatrist who has worked in the correctional system will be aware of the services that are available and the psychiatric assessment may include consideration of such matters. The specific requirements of Section 32 are well known to forensic psychiatrists however consideration of additional issues should be specified by the referring solicitor to ensure that the psychiatric evaluation accords with the requirements.
- A consultant forensic psychiatrist is the appropriate expert to undertake a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation for a Section 32 application;
- The psychiatric assessment for a Section 32 matter will be assisted by the provision of background information and specific questions from the referring solicitor.
Motor Accident Authority
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Mental Illness Defence
Mental Health Diversion (Section 32/Section 21a)
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Administrative Appeals Tribunal
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