Defendants are clueless the 30-day psychiatric observation

  • S.Z. Kaliski
  • M. Boncherds
  • F. Williams


Objective. To investigate the understanding and expectations of defendants referred  to Valkenberg Hosprtal for 3O-day observation.
Design. Defendants referred for 30 days of psychiatric assessment were surveyed by means of a semi-structured interview within 3 days of admission.
Participants. One hundred consecutive referrals from the Western, Northern and Eastern Cape were considered; 88 were eventually entered into the study.
Results. AJI defendants were generally ignorant of the reasons for referral, but had a good understanding of court procedure and wrongfulness. Mentally ill subjects differed only in their not being able to distinguish between a guilty/not guilty plea Most did not have legal representation, did not personally request the assessment and denied guilt of the alleged offence.
Conclusions. Mental illness affects triability but not necessarily criminal responsibility. Disturbingly, most defendants were without legal representation and were unaware of the purpose, implications and possible outcomes of psychiatric observation. It is imperative that the legislation governing these aspects be reviewed.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135