Forensic Psychiatry

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forensic psychiatry

[fə¦renz·ik sī′kī·ə·trē]
(forensic science)
A branch of psychiatry dealing with legal issues related to mental disorders.

Forensic Psychiatry


a branch of psychiatry that studies disturbances of human psychic activity with respect to certain norms of criminal and civil law and norms of procedure representing the attitude of the law toward persons who are mentally ill or suspected of being mentally deficient. Accordingly, forensic psychiatry investigates first of all the medical, or psychiatric, grounds on the basis of which a person may be held not accountable for his actions or incapable of assuming civil rights and performing civic duties. Under Soviet criminal law, a deed committed in a state of nonimputability (seeNONIMPUTABILITY) is not considered a crime and the perpetrator is not considered a criminal. Other subjects of study by forensic psychiatry are witnesses and victims whose mental soundness is in question.

In the field of civil procedure, the task of forensic psychiatry is to determine whether a plaintiff or a defendant can understand the significance of his actions and control them; a basis is provided for the court to rule on a person’s competence, on the need to establish guardianship, or on the validity of transactions concluded during a period of mental derangement. The presence or absence of mental illness and the degree of mental disturbance caused by the illness are determined by commissions of forensic psychiatric review appointed by the investigating authorities or by the court.

In addition to providing such psychiatric appraisals, another task of forensic psychiatry is the study, for preventive purposes, of socially dangerous acts committed by mentally ill persons; medical intervention, including compulsory treatment of the mentally ill, is an important part of such prevention.

In the USSR, commissions of forensic psychiatric review are under the jurisdiction of the public-health authorities. Scientific and methodological guidance for forensic psychiatry is provided by the Professor Serbskii Central Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Psychiatry.


Lunts, D. R. Sovetskaia sudebnaia psikhiatriia. Moscow, 1970.
Sudebnaia psikhiatriia, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1971.


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